Why Do We Need Euthanasia?
E-U-T-H-A-N-A-S-I-A. The first time I heard this word, I thought it meant something joyful. Little did I know. In translation from Greek it means “death for good”. Over the centuries it has been a topic for many heated arguments.
Euthanasia – is an ending of someone’s life intended to relieve pain and suffering. At the moment, it is only legal in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
I. 1. Active euthanasia
Active euthanasia takes place when someone’s actions deliberately cause the death of a sick person. For example, a doctor might give his patient an overdose of sedatives in order to ease his pain, which will eventually end his or her life.
2. Passive euthanasia.
Opposed to the active euthanasia, here the death is followed by inaction from someone. This could happen if a doctor withholds of treatment when necessary towards a terminally ill patient.
II. From the sufferer’s point of view, euthanasia could be classified as:
1. Voluntary euthanasia
Conducted by the patient’s consent.
2. Non-voluntary euthanasia
It takes place if there is no way of getting the patient’s consent (people in coma, children etc.).
3. Involuntary euthanasia –
Where the death is conducted against the person’s will. Basically, it’s a murder.
Cases of euthanasia have been recorded quite a long time ago. But in the ancient times the term euthanasia was more about hastening the death of a sick person. For example, in Sparta, disabled newborn babies were murdered in order to “free” them and society from the lifelong burden. Unfortunately this practice still takes place around the world. (Watch this film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFAdUtKimIQ). Overall, the idea of euthanasia was widely supported in the ancient world. But, Hippocrates – the father of medicine was against this practice, saying “I will not prescribe a deadly drug to please someone, nor give advice that may cause his death”. The fact that he wrote that already suggests that even in V century B.C. there were some serious debates about euthanasia.
Later, during the Middle Ages, religion started to take place in the discussion, saying that only God has the right to take a human life. However, it didn’t stop many physicians from practicing mercy killing. The most popular ways of assisted suicide included suffocating, bleeding and removal of pillows. Yup, medieval people really had a thing with pillows. They thought that if pulled out suddenly they could hasten the death of the martyr.
Renaissance period challenged the priests a little bit. Great philosophers like Thomas More and Francis Bacon started to put humanitarian values over the religious approach. With the better understanding of human body the antipathy to euthanasia seemed to fade away. More people outside of medicine started to talk about it publicly by publishing articles, making speeches, writhing books, etc.
However, all those works started to give some fruit only in the 19th century. This era considered to give the start contemporary debate on the topic. Many supporters of euthanasia at the time claimed that painless death was the right given to every individual. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution also played a role in this debate. The existence of God became doubtful, so many started to think that only people themselves had the control over their life and death. And so on the idea of legalizing euthanasia prospered around the world. Take a look at this essay by an English schoolteacher written in 1872:
”That in all cases of hopeless and painful illness, it should be the recognized duty of the medical attendant, whenever so desired by the patient, to administer chloroform or such other anaesthetic as may by-and-bye supersede chloroform – so as to destroy consciousness at once, and put the sufferer to a quick and painless death; all needful precautions being adopted to prevent any possible abuse of such duty; and means being taken to establish, beyond the possibility of doubt or question, that the remedy was applied at the express wish of the patient’.
— Samuel Williams
At the beginning of the 20th century a couple of quite powerful euthanasia movements started to bloom in Britain and in the states. Just when the issue started to make some progress, the Nazis screwed everything up (as with most things in the forties) by launching a programme, which later became known as “Action T4”. It all started when the family of a heavily disabled newborn boy asked the authorities to kill him. Hitler’s personal physician, Karl Brandt, took matters in his own hands. More than 5000 newborn babies were taken from their families and never returned back. Soon after, this programme started to include adults. Anyone with any kind of disability, be it physical or mental, was deemed as “unworthy of life”. Euthanasia lost it’s value as an individual right and became a euphemism for genocide. Basically it was the starting point of the Holocaust.Overall, the “Action T4” killed nearly 80 000 people in the period from 1938 to 1945. Since then, many debates on the topic have taken place on the political level. But only three countries out of 196 managed to legalize euthanasia today. I can understand that. It is never easy to make a definitive decision when it comes to such a sensitive matter as death. It’s not just death – it is homicide. Don’t take me wrong, I’m a member of pro-euthanasia camp, but something as serious as that can’t be resolved with one debate, petition or law. Before letting doctors to assist their patients in suicide, the governments must sort out the national healthcare systems in order to avoid any kind of abuse of power. If euthanasia was allowed somewhere like Russia, for example, it would allow thousands of murderers to walk away from their crimes. Quality of human life is the only argument which keeps this debate alive. The bitter truth is that we can’t let our cultural, moral, religious views and imperfections in the law be the reason of an ill person’s suffering. We just don’t have the right. Every human being deserves to live and die with dignity. And if a sane person wants to rest in peace because the quality of his or her life is so miserable. Trust me, people who ask for euthanasia don’t do that to annoy us. They do that because out of the choice they’ve got, dying is the better choice. Share your thoughts on the topic in the commen section.