The right to life. The right to death.
My father died from emphysema, a debilitating disease that sucks the life out of the sufferer and we are currently watching my mother-in-law dying from the same ailment. She has been brought back from the brink of death twice in the past month by dedicated medical practitioners who have abided by their Hippocratic Oath and kept her alive.
The conundrum that my mother-in-law is faced with, is although she is alive, on medication and oxygen and being looked after in a frail care facility (at a high financial cost) her quality of life is pretty much non-existent. There is no cure for her, she will not get better she will be confined to her room or the use of a wheel chair to get around if and when she is able to stay awake long enough.
So here is the problem. She has the right to life and her medical practitioners ensure that this happens. However, what if she was at the point (she isn’t but many terminally ill patients are) that she no longer wants to remain alive? She does not have the right to choose to die! Well, in this and most other countries, the answer is no!
Doctors are bound by an oath and by law to do all they can to keep terminally ill patients comfortable. They will, if a patient is in a coma, get to a point where if the patient is declared brain dead, turn off life support and let “nature” take its course, but there are many patients who are not on life support but are kept drugged or comatose until the body can take no more and expires.
Euthanasia is a taboo topic and is also not an option (for a whole host of reasons and laws) to those wishing to end their pain and suffering and suicide is seen as a sign of weakness (irrespective of how brave they were fighting their disease).
We are brought up being told that the taking of a life is immoral, illegal, ungodly (to the religious) and just not done and I concur with that sentiment when there is a healthy life involved, but there are hospitals, infirmaries, houses and old age homes the world over filled with people who just wish they could shuffle off this mortal coil with dignity rather than lying in a bed with pain-killing drugs, oxygen masks, adult diapers and catheters clinging on to a life that they wish would be over.
Sure one can sign a “Living Will” but that really mainly pertains to those who wish to refuse life support but even with that, the doctors are still obliged to keep you as pain free as possible so, for the terminally ill who are awake and just waiting to die, the Living Will doesn’t help much.
I’m quite sure that there will be a rash of pro and con arguments following this letter. There will be the religious debate, the practical debate and the emotional debate but before putting your fingers to your keyboards and attacking the concept of euthanasia, ask yourself what you would like to happen if it was you, your mum, your dad, your sister, your brother lying helpless in a bed, in pain, with a body that just doesn’t work but a heart that is still pumping and straining to keep the useless vessel of skin and bone alive.
If I have the right to live, then surely in this scenario, I should have the right not to either. What do you think?
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