I would like to write my thoughts about the issue of Euthanasia, or the right to assisted suicide. Part of the reason why I am motivated to do so is because I have been thinking quite somewhat about the issue, and another part is because I come across blog posts by fellow Christians who strongly oppose the legalisation of Euthanasia.
The brief summary of thoughts on euthanasia is that it should be legalised, but strictly regulated so that the option of euthanasia is only available to the genuinely dire and necessary cases. I don’t think that there are any stronger case for providing the option for euthanasia than when one reads about cases of patients with really insufferable diseases that torments them to no ends and with no respite until they die. For example, I once read of this case of a man with the well-known neurodegenerative disease, ALS, who requested to be given the option of assisted suicide, but was denied that option by the court. The way he died was by suffocation from choking on his saliva to death. I really can’t identify when conservatives argue that euthanasia should not be allowed because it infringes upon the principle of sanctity of life, or the right to life. Try saying that to those people suffering from these painful terminal illnesses pleading that they be given the option to end their own lives. “I know you are undergoing a lot of pain and want to die, but I am not going to allow you to, because principle of sanctity of life. You can choke on your saliva to death for all I care, or writhe in agony while the cancer eats away at you, but nope, no assisted suicide for you, because, well, principle of sanctity of life.” I am not sure whether conservatives who make these arguments are aware how cruel and unsympathetic their arguments sound, perhaps almost to the point of being silly. That is the problem of taking some principle as absolute and extrapolating them all the way I guess. It may sound rational, but only if you subscribe to the same paradigm of these principles being absolute. My thoughts is that the principle of sanctity of life, while a principle that should be accorded great weight, has to be considered together with other factors, notwithstanding the least, the principle of consent and dignity of life. If a patient is suffering from a really painful, terminable illness, and no other treatment options are able to cure or alleviate such pains, then perhaps, assisted suicide should be warranted with the patient’s consent.
The other argument conservatives raise is that such options are prone to abuse. I can agree with that, but isn’t this easily addressed by ensuring that certain regulatory features are in place? For one, there needs to be consent. For two, the illness must be recognised as being terminable, with all other forms of treatment options exhausted. Perhaps a more restrictive approach could employ a list regulating kinds of illnesses where the option of assisted suicide is available. Perhaps the regulatory issues are more complicated, but I am sure that they can be further refined. But to do away completely with the option of assisted suicide simply because of these regulatory issues seems to swing to the conservative extreme to me. While I identify with conservatives on a number of issues, euthanasia is not one of them. I hope that those conservatives who oppose euthanasia can somehow take on a more sympathetic view if they should consider their own personal susceptibility to such debilitating and tormenting illnesses. They might one day wish the option of assisted suicide is available to them should they find themselves beset with such illnesses someday, but find that it isn’t because they had opposed it their entire lives, and now find that those they had encouraged to oppose euthanasia similarly oppose them too from resorting to such an option at a time when they most wish it for themselves.