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Euthanasia: Are You For It Or Against It?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Posted in: Euthanasia

right-to-die

I was listening to my favourite radio station earlier, where they were discussing euthanasia, and the whole, ‘dying with dignity’ argument.

The specific case that they were looking at involved Dan James, an English rugby player, who became paralysed after an accident during a training session.

Dan had tried several times to kill himself, before finally asking his parents take him to a Swiss euthanasia clinic. Dan died in September 2008.

In a powerful statement, Julie and Mark James said their son Dan loathed his existence in what he said was a “prison” of his body.

They said he was “an intelligent young man of sound mind” who was “not prepared to live what he felt was a second-class existence”, his parents said…

Mr And Mrs James said: “His death was an extremely sad loss for his family, friends and all those that care for him but no doubt a welcome relief from the ‘prison’ he felt his body had become and the day-to-day fear and loathing of his living existence, as a result of which he took his own life.

“This is the last way that the family wanted Dan’s life to end but he was, as those who know him are aware, an intelligent, strong-willed and some say determined young man.

The problem is, the family are now being investigated by the police, and they could be jailed if found guilty of assisting Dan in his quest to die. Over here, they could serve up to fourteen years in prison.

I’ve always said that if I ever ended up in a situation where my brain was alive, but my body wasn’t, I’d want to be put out of my misery.

I know that there are brave people out there who live this kind of life every day, but I wouldn’t be one of them. I would most certainly rather die, than have to wholly rely on others to feed me, take me to the toilet, shave me, etc etc, at such a young age.

I’m resigned to the fact that old age may well force these things upon me, but having to live like that in my thirties or forties, or even fifties? Bollocks to that. And what about the people living in constant pain? Surely it would be more humane to give them some kind of control over their own lives?

I personally think that there are certain circumstances, where people should be able to decide for themselves, whether they want to live or die. And the family members who aid them, should not be prosecuted for trying to grant the wishes of their loved ones.

What say you?

27 Comments »


  • SarahT
    March 11
    9:24 am

    My opinion on this subject pretty much mirrors yours. Reading about Jade Goody’s deterioration breaks my heart. I don’t think I’d want to go through that if there was a legal alternative.

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  • Emmy
    March 11
    9:29 am

    I’ve watched patients suffer and be practically tortured by family members who were too selfish to let go. It runs me nuts every time, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m all for euthanasia for terminal patients who are in excrutiating pain that medication cannot alleviate.

    Now dude in your scenario had some vanity and self esteem issues. It doesn’t state the extent of his paralysis. If it were just legs…well, he needs to get over himself and make it work. Paralyzed from the neck down would be quite a bit harder, but Christopher Reeve was able to do some amazing things and advocated for people with disabilities until he died.

    I think I would be more sympathetic if the person were completely paralyzed, because it really is a full time job to care for a body that isn’t functioning anymore.

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  • Myself, I am totally against this. I, in no way, would want to kill myself, regardless of my situation. And I, in no way, would help anyone kill themselves.

    HOWEVER …. I do believe in people’s right to choose to do this, and to have the laws done in a such a way that if the person needs assistance, that those willing to help are allowed to help and not be prosecuted.

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  • Sparky
    March 11
    11:40 am

    This is something I’m very firm on, since It seems most of my granparents, great unlces and aunts and great grand parents are blessed with longevity and cursed to a long, slow, agonising decline at the end of their lives.

    Bteween terminal cancer, crippling Alzheimers, arthiritis that was equivalent to total paralysis and a slew of other diseases that kill a person long before they stop breathing I say firmly that I do not want to die like that – and I refuse to do so.

    To force people to live a life that has long since become intolerable is a form of torture and it is only added cruelty to prosecute grieving loved ones who helped those suffering take the last step

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  • If the person is of sound mind when making the decision, his/her reasons should not be up for scrutiny–it is his/her life.

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  • Cindy
    March 11
    12:59 pm

    I totally agree. A person should indeed have the right to choose, as well that a family should have the right to choose if a family member is suffering and can’t make the choice.

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  • Sam
    March 11
    1:09 pm

    I think we are more kind to our pets than we are each other. If a pet is in pain and the Dr. see no way to relieve it, we put it down.

    If a person is in the same boat, we morphine drip them and let them linger in pain for long periods.

    I’ve already told everyone I do not want to live like that. Put me down for god’s sakes.

    Sam

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  • Emmy
    March 11
    1:29 pm

    a family should have the right to choose if a family member is suffering and can’t make the choice

    Families DO have the right to choose to end treatment. The problem is usually lack of will. Nobody wants to be the one to make that decision, so the sick person is stuck lying there in pain until they finally die. TOtally unnecessary.

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  • MB (Leah)
    March 11
    1:32 pm

    For it.

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  • stephi
    March 11
    1:54 pm

    People should be allowed the choice.

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  • Dh and I each have a living will. I don’t want any fights between my Dh and family if anything should ever happen to me where I can’t express my own wishes.

    I have a DNR for some situations and a ‘fight to save me like hell’ for others.

    Dh and I both have very different opinions when it comes to when we want to be let go or not, so the living wills along with our wills were a must. We both said that we would respect each other wishes, but when I really thought about it I am sure I could not tell doctors to pull the plug. There is always that thought in the back of my mind that medical science will find a cure or solution.
    Having the living will and knowing 100% what my husband wants eases a burden.

    Holy hell, I don’t EVER want to have to use that document.

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  • When I think about the Terry Shiavo case it makes me even more happy to have these living wills.
    That’s one of the situations here DH and I are not eye to eye. He agreed with the pulling the feeding tube in order to end her suffering. I didn’t. My living Will assures me that I will not ever starve to death in that manner.

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  • Throwmearope
    March 11
    2:22 pm

    When it looked like euthanasia might pass in California, I put up a sign in my office that read: Euthanasia not spoken here.

    Case in point, the rugby guy. We are making huge strides in stem cell research, we might find a “cure” for paralysis. But if you’re dead, it’s too late for you.

    Like Emmy, I see families hang on way too long because they’re afraid of the guilt they’ll feel when their neglected family member dies.

    On the other hand, I’ve had relatives ask me to kill their family member because they don’t have time to come to the hospital to visit. These people were viable still.

    I had a patient with terminal cancer ask me to keep him alive for three days to get his affairs in order. It took a boatload of work to do that for him. I had to fight every cancer doctor in the ward for him. He spent 18 hours a day sorting through paperwork with his son.

    At the end of the three days, he thanked me for fighting for him. He had overheard the heated whispered comments in the hallway. Then he said to let him go. So I stopped therapy and he died a few hours later.

    Voltaire said: “Le pouvoir corrompt, le pouvoir absolu corrompt absolument.” Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    I know more doctors than most anyone here. I’m telling you most of us can’t handle this kind of power.

    Obviously, I vote no.

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  • I’ve heard the argument that human beings aren’t God and shouldn’t play god in these tragic situations. But I like to think God isn’t so sadistic or merciless as to want to see one of his -or her- creations suffer like this. Most people are endowed with capacity to show mercy to a suffering animal, why is it wrong to shown anything less to a fellow human being?

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  • Anon76
    March 11
    3:16 pm

    Oh, I sooooooooo believe in the right to choose. Every situation is different, and every person is different.

    To this day, the images from my mother-in-law’s slow and agonizing death rips me to pieces. She had ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and her only option was a “do not resusitate” order. She hadn’t the ability to commit suicide on her own, and knew that if anyone helped, they would go to jail.

    So, one New Year’s day, we stood around her hospital bed and watched her die. It took the entire day and into the evening for her to slowly sufficate to death…her extremities turning increasingly blue…moments when she would literally bolt up in bed as she gasped for air.

    You will never convince me that the pain medications given to her then did anything to relieve her suffering.

    As someone else said, we treat our animals better than that when in comes to compassionate medical practices.

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  • That’s the way it tends to end for Cancer patients as well. I’ve watched two people die of cancer. It’s agonizing.

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  • I think it’s horribly sad that commiting suicide is not a crime, but assisting one is. I think encouraging suicide should be against the law, but the fact is that many many people who are on the point of wanting to die no longer have the werewithal to do the deed themselves, due to paralysis or weakness or being hospitalized in intensive care under the 24/7 supervision of medical staff. Why should an ALS patient or someone who’s been living on their back on a respirator for 20 years have fewer rights and less autonomy than someone who’s emotional suffering leads them to leap off a bridge?

    And the poor loved ones who have to face that awful choice of watching someone suffer or face prison? Sad.

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  • Case in point, the rugby guy. We are making huge strides in stem cell research, we might find a “cure” for paralysis. But if you’re dead, it’s too late for you.

    That’s all good “for you”.

    As someone who has been HIV+ since 1990 I don’t get this argument. Your promise of some miracle cure that I have heard over and over again does not help the guy suffering right this moment. How can you assume to know what he is going through? How can you assume to know better than he does? How does he benefit in his current condition with these vague promises when faced with the length of his suffering?

    My lover John died an agonizing death as his brain was infected by AIDS. My mother recently died after suffering years as a victim of alzheimer’s. On both occasions I had to participate in the decision to not allow the doctors to put them on machines.

    Just because you can elongate life through mechanical and pharmaceutical means delaying the natural progression without having to provide any cure underlines the simple fact that the doctors are already “playing god”. The power has already corrupted the system and to not deal with this question properly through humanitarian means you are denying the realities you are already participating in and ignoring the suffering of the patients you are striving to help.

    Seems to me the current method to deal with these diseases with no cure is to drug them up so much they can’t complain to the doctors or nurses as they rot. Is shutting the patient up so you don’t have to answer the simple question “can you cure this?” really the best answer?

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  • Anon76
    March 11
    4:09 pm

    Can someone from the medical members here please explain the “medical” definition of “viable”? Because when I read the basic definitions for the term, they don’t seem to match up one to the other.

    Also, there are many people with horrid conditions whose relatives are not “neglecting” them. Fact is, they often don’t have the “medical” know how to keep them safe.

    Case in point, Hospice said just one month before my MIL died that she was well enough that they would no longer help in her care. WTF? Um, any food or liquid given to her could very well have killed her as she choked to death on it! Lets not even get into the idea of trying to get a pill down her throat.

    Oh yes, I could see the “guilt” now as one of her sons tried to feed her, she begins choking, and he could do nothing to help. “Man, I KILLED my mother.”

    Sigh. Sorry, just a touchy topic for me.

    But in fact, the inability to provide home medical care by the unlearned masses is a reality, not a “neglect” issue.

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  • In my home state of Washington, we just passed (In November) the Death with Dignity Law. And I voted for it. I really think it should be up to the person.

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  • Louise van Hine
    March 11
    8:35 pm

    Definitely in favor of it. I have the perspective of having had an intractable pain condition for 5 years, and if a solution had not been found for it, there is no way I could have endured it. Unless you’ve been in that situation, nobody has the right to decide for you what you can or should endure.

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  • Keishon
    March 11
    9:43 pm

    Most people are endowed with capacity to show mercy to a suffering animal, why is it wrong to shown anything less to a fellow human being?

    Took the words or would have – out of my mouth.
    It’s personal and that’s the way I’d like to see it stay.

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  • Marianne McA
    March 11
    10:18 pm

    I’d read this just before the Daniel James case, and it did make me feel differently about it.

    http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/archive/berg.htm

    On the whole, I’m pro euthanasia, because I’d like to have that option myself. But I can see difficulties in devising a workable system that protects the vunerable. Because while there are people that are kind to suffering animals, there are others who are not. There was a programme on local TV yesterday about a blind 93 year old woman who was cheated out of her home by her son: if, in other circumstances, he had had the right to decide whether to ‘end her suffering’ there’s no reason to think he’d consider anything but his own best interests.

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  • Death with dignity says it all.

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  • Lorraine
    March 11
    11:59 pm

    No question about it, I’m all for euthanasia. It’s cruel to make a person live who no longer has the desire for life, for whatever reason.

    In the case of people in a persistant vegetative state, who can’t decide for themselves, the decision should be up to the immediate family whether or not to keep them alive. It should be done humanely, rather than make the person starve to death. And under no circumstances should the family face legal repercussions. They’ve already faced the agony of watching their loved one wither away.

    I consider it the most basic of human rights. For me it’s simple: It’s my life and if I want to end it, at any time, for any reason, that’s my right. The idea that anyone has the hubris to insist that I remain living when I no longer want to, is mind boggling to me. Just because others may think my life has meaning, doesn’t mean that I do.

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  • eggs
    March 12
    1:40 am

    I believe that when the brain is gone, then so are you. So I don’t see anything wrong with someone having the plug pulled if they are a vegetable – as far as I’m concerned, they’re dead already. When the mind is intact, however, I’m against it.

    I recently watched an 80-something relative of my husband die a slow and painful death of dehydration because she’d had a stroke and could no longer swallow. Her two adult children (in their early 60’s) refused to allow her to have a drip for hydration (or sedation) because she was “going to die anyway”, so they didn’t see any point in prolonging the agony (for themselves).

    For those who are curious, it took her close to a week to die – and her mind was intact the entire time. She could nod or shake her head for yes and no to questions that were asked of her. If she’d been given the “choice” of euthanasia, I’m sure she would have grabbed it with both hands to escape the torture her children were putting her through.

    And let’s face it, there are much more subtle forms of psychological pressure that could be brought to bear on the elderly to get them to request to be euthanized by their selfish, greedy children who can’t wait to inherit. We always consider extreme case scenarios – like quadraplegia or persistent coma – when talking about euthanasia, but the reality is that the vast majority of people (like +90%) who will be euthanized will be the elderly who are the most easily victimized and bullied segment of our society. We need to make laws that take into account the most common scenarios, not the least likely.

    That being said, if a person of sound mind can convince a panel of psychologists that they genuinely want to die (say, similar to the hoops you need to jump through to get gender reassignment surgery), then I don’t necessarily object to the laws being changed to allow this. I strongly object to the simple decriminalization of euthanasia.

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  • I don’t necessarily object to the laws being changed to allow this. I strongly object to the simple decriminalization of euthanasia.

    Well, I would rather see some of the ways treatments are preformed questioned and regulated more. I have seen a great deal of treatments of the terminally ill used simply because they could. Think of it as unapproved experimentation by doctors on patients that were dying anyway. I would hate to accuse them of padding the bill so to speak but I think it does happen just for that reason and it happens more often than we think especially when you are dealing with AIDS or Alzheimers etc.

    Just because we can prolong life does not mean we should. Just because we can stick 6 embryos in a woman does not mean we should.

    Some of these decisions should effect the doctor financially as much as it effects the patient. I think doctors do get god complexes and it does hit all of us in our insurance premiums.

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