- Politics and Social Issues
Euthanasia- Is mercy killing justified?
Should mercy killing be legalised?
Euthanasia -- Is mercy killing justified in India?
On June 14 2005 , the newspaper headlines sprang the news that the central Government in India was mulling over the idea of legalising euthanasia -- under the garb of mercy killing.
All humane people would have been pleased and grateful at the idea that possibly the government is going to pass a bill legalizing mercy killing. But on the other hand we also have to note the pros and cons of such a drastic action.
This is a controversial issue which has raised its head often. There are many religious and humanistic societies which protest against this mercy killing. Let us mull over the reasons for and against euthanasia in a levelheaded manner.
Euthanasia (from Greek: -'eu "good," thanatos"- death") - It is the easiest way to end the life of an individual or an animal who is terminally ill or suffering from a chronically painful condition. The way to give him a dignified exit is through a painless or a minimally painful way. That can be done by a drug overdose, a lethal injection, or the withdrawal of medical support.
Euthanasia is killing of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit.
But unfortunately in practice it has begun to be the selective killing of those who are old or sick. And this practice is being supported worldwide.
Friends, Indians, countrymen, lend me thy ears.
I come not to praise Euthanasia but to worry it!
I'm giving you some definitions and then we can go through the implications of this supposed mercy killing.
Voluntary euthanasia is when the person who is killed requests to be killed. On the other hand, non voluntary euthanasia is when a person made no request and gave no consent.
Involuntary euthanasiais when the person made an expressed wish that he did not want the benefit of mercy killing.
Historically, we have the example of Adolf Hitler revelling in non voluntary and involuntary euthanasia by killing" life unworthy of life." There is documented evidence that many of his Nazi physicians made the decision to judge whether people were incurable and they were given a merciful death.
But that megalomaniac in his dream of a perfect Aryan race used this excuse to exterminate the elderly, the crippled, and also people of other races like the Negroes and the Jews. According to him they were unfit to live in his perfect Utopian society and they belonged to the category of" life unworthy of life."
Now this is a supreme example of how one person makes the decision and decides who is fit to live and unfit to live. He can take the advantage of using his own power, discernment, prejudice, racial hatred and wrap it up under the garb of being merciful and being a public benefactor.
No sir! Nobody has the right to become the arbitrator of another human beings' destiny.
Many who reads this article might disagree with me.
"What do we do about the terminally ill and sick people? Is it good and proper to keep them alive and suffering when all they want is a merciful release?"
It immediately took me back to a couple of years ago when the grand old patriarch of the family was lying upon his bed. He had already enjoyed an independent and healthy life for 95 grand years but suddenly he was prostate with sickness.
He quietly asked my father, his nephew whom he had raised, to pay off his paternal debt by getting him some sleeping pills so that he did not prolong his own suffering .He wanted a dignified exit.
My horrified father immediately declared that he would not even give his worst enemy the means to take his own life, let alone his own grand uncle. But in Assisted suicide, someone provides an individual with the information, guidance, and means to take his or her own life with the intention that they will be used for this purpose.
When it is a doctor who helps another person to kill themselves it is called "physician assisted suicide."
Grand Uncle wanted to know from another relative if it would not be easier to let him go by starving him to death. Thismight sound very terrible but Euthanasia by omission means intentionally causing death by not providing the necessary food and water to the suffering patients.
Fifteen years before, his wife who was terminally ill had requested to be allowed to let go. Even though she had been given the best of care, after her death, my granduncle just happened to say.
"Was it justified to prolong her life and suffering? Even though she was fortunate to have a family who could take care of her, how many other cases like this can be found in the world?"
He was right to feel apprehensive.
There are plenty of supporters for Euthanasia--in the West. And the tragedy is that the concern for sick and elderly to be put out of their sufferings is not thoroughly altruistic.
Your old parents have already provided you with life's necessities and opportunities.
They have been milked out of all the things which they were worth. Now they are burdens upon you which have to be discarded. The materialistic world has no time to take care of the old and elderly and cater to their demands when you might be out enjoying yourself. After all you live only once!
So the best way is to pray that your government passes a bill to legalize euthanasia so that you can send them off to the doctor to be injected with a little overdose of drugs.
In this way you can ease your conscience that you have done what is best for them. You do not bother that they have plenty of more years in them. You could not be bothered that they were not suffering from any life taking disease except senility.
They offended your sensibilities by their presence by their meek acceptance of fate and circumstances.
Why keep a burden around? All you are doing is justifying your self seeking nature by getting rid of a problem.
Supporters of euthanasia argue that "mercy-killing" is necessary because patients, particularly those with terminal illness, experience uncontrollable pain. They argue that the only way to alleviate the pain is to eliminate the patient. What else can we do? They ask.
We're fortunate to have medicines at hand which can control pain. There must be a more widespread usage of those medicines and medical aid. In fact if there is a worldwide medical network which allows easy access to facilities and medicine, instead of euthanizing patients, who could have possibly been cured if access to some medicine in faraway Asia or South America was available, would that not have been a better thing for human beings and humanity?
Uninformed medical personnel are using outdated and inadequate methods to stop their patients suffering. If they have access to the latest methods and technologies, which should be the priority of the government instead of arguing upon Euthanasia--, everybody would agree with a sigh of relief and believe his future secure without the shadow of a lethal injection following him some anytime in the future!
What makes a person believe that he will not be in the same situation when somebody else makes a decision to exterminate him?
The medical expenses are so high when lifesaving medicines from good companies cost the earth. On the other hand, medicines with the same composition from smaller companies can be bought at 1/8 of the cost.
Easy access to such medicines will also prolong the life of the patient.
Neurosurgical, surgical, anesthetic, and psychological innovations and combinations can easily stop a person from thinking about Physician assisted suicide.
81% of the Australians are pro Euthanasia. In North America Oregon was the first state to pass the bill for Euthanasia--in 1998. The Dutch passed a bill supporting Euthanasia--and managed to get rid of 4% of unwanted people who had opted for non voluntary Euthanasia--someone else had made the decision to get rid of them.
This is the way Euthanasia--is going to be misused in the hands of unscrupulous people who have the power and support of the law behind them.
The reasons for justifying Euthanasia were honoring the civil rights of an individual to choose death over an unacceptable quality of life and a need for providing a means for death with dignity, often with the motive of not burdening loved ones.
This is the point which I want to make here. The idea of being a burden upon the loved ones and your caregivers is forcibly fed into the old and the elderly to make them feel guilty for just existing.
Implicitly or explicitly, the feeling is implied that they are an extra mouth to feed.
Self respecting people then decide that life is unsupportable and prefer death.
Society can survive only on valuing life at all stages. How can society say that Euthanasia--is justified when there are no rules and regulations commanding the stage when one person decides that he needs to die and requests the Physician to assist him to die in a dignified way?
Imagine a young son pestering his ailing father upon property matters. It has been done, it will be done. The thoroughly tired and disgusted father wishes for death. That is taken as a statement of intent and purpose instead of a statement of thorough helplessness.
Parts of the statement are used and acted upon with the conscience being appeased with the sophistry " he did not want to live anymore!"An unscrupulous Doctor immediately takes this statement to be a declaration for voluntary euthanasia.
But the Hippocratic Oath talks about preservation of life without prejudice.
What is to stop doctors to advocate mercy killing just because they do not want to bother about working hard to save one precious life?
Remember that the old and elderly are a valuable fabric of the Indian society. In the west, nobody bothers much about old people because they are bundled up into old people's homes whenever the children think them a burden, physical, emotional and financial. But in India, grandparents are still a power in the house and the family.
Would I have known about family traditions, the culture of my country, my religion and other religions, my upbringing, (including Tehzeeb.) herbal lore, old songs and dialects, and principles if there was not a grandmother to guide me? What if my father had thought her a burden and decided that she would be better off in an old people's home?
Instead my life has been richer by the presence of the old and elderly to whom I could go and tell my troubles and be glad of good guidance and advice.
Anybody of my generation would remember with nostalgia the fun and laughter and happiness which one felt at the knees of loving grandparents, reminiscing about the olden days and occasionally pulling their children up for not indulging and spoiling the grandchildren as they so richly deserved.
But now this generation believes the old and elderly to be burdens.
I wanted to kick a cynical acquaintance who mumbled once. "A dead rich dad is infinitely preferable to a living rich dad." What we should remember is that this is not the West and we have a rich heritage which is the inheritance which our elders can pass on to us.
When the unwanted are slaughtered for the convenience and the benefit of a chosen few, this mercy killing will take the name of legalized genocide. Then we might decide to start killing of the other unwanted people like the Nazis did. Euthanasia will be legalized murder to get rid of the unwanted people.
We must be very wary of those who support mercy killing by giving casuistic and holier than thou opinions of benefiting society.
Benefit? It is more a hypocritical non declaration of the personal benefit the person is going to get by ridding himself of a person he does not want around him any more. There is a difference between allowing nature to take its course and actively assisting death.
Many religions forbid this because life is a blessing or a curse but it has been given to a human being for some purpose. Nobody has any right to make a decision on his own behalf or somebody else's behalf to shorten it.
A terminally ill patient is suffering physically. But he's also suffering from mental and social pain. The social pain is that he is a financial burden upon his family. His children have to take time off their busy lives to take him to the doctor. Sometimes patients are reluctant to report that they are feeling any pain, because it will be a trouble to their family members.
I regret to say, Indian ladies are a prey to such martyrdom. They will suffer in silence so that they are nota source of worry to their husband or the in laws. And so when they grow old, this ingrained habit continues.
This issue is not about the right to commit suicide. It is about placing the lives of the weakest among us in the hands of people other than themselves who often have self-serving agendas and want to get rid of people for their own future prosperity.
Life means an inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If our right to life itself is diminished in value, our other rights will have no meaning.
There was soon come a day when our own country might support Euthanasia--.
After having considered the pros and cons of such mercy-killing, I can only suggest that if they want to make it legal, let the government make sure that stringent rules are applied like a panel of doctors/ psychiatrists who are known to be incorruptible and humane thing carefully over such applications and decide whether the patient is really terminally ill and suffering and there is no way in which he can survive.
Nobody else should be allowed to make a decision on his behalf.
This is an issue not to be taken lightly and stringent rules should be made so that no single doctor takes it upon himself to play God.