How assisted suicide affects family

2015-05-13 06:00

MOST opinions expressed in the euthanasia debate are in favour of legalising it in South Africa, but we must be cautious for several reasons:

• We have not been able to police abortion laws; euthanasia legislation will be much more difficult, as the Netherlands has discovered.

Professor Theo Boer, the ethicist who was in the vanguard supporting the legislation in that country, wrote in the UK Daily Mail: “Assisted dying: don’t go there.” He says their seven regulating committees have failed to satisfactorily control the practice. Many people are being illegally killed. The aged and infirm’s security and safety has been seriously affected.

• In Switzerland, studies show that the incidence of severe psychological illness among relatives of people given assisted suicide 14 to 24 months after the event is the same as that encountered among servicemen returning from the Vietnam war. Families are seriously affected.

• That might be worse in South Africa. What is acceptable to Westerners with a world view which supports the concept of autonomous individuality, is unacceptable to perhaps 80% of our people who have a strong sense of the individual’s value in community.

In this debate, the value of dignity must be balanced against providing security for vulnerable people. Security should be held as the greater need, especially in developing countries. Therefore the South African Medical Association has come out strongly against assisted suicide-euthanasia.

DR J.V. LARSEN

Howick

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