The right-to-die debate

The issue of euthanasia has, for years, been a debate which has rumbled on; occasionally making the national headlines when high profile cases are being discussed.  Most recently there have been the well-publicised cases of Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb. 
Tony Nicklinson was a 58 year-old father of two who was paralysed from the neck down after suffering a stroke in 2005.  He was left with locked-in syndrome and was only able to communicate by blinking.  He lost his High Court bid in August 2012 which aimed to allow doctors to end his life without fear of prosecution.  A week after the decision, Mr Nicklinson passed away from natural causes.
Almost a year on from Mr Nicklinson’s death Paul Lamb, a 58 year-old man from Leeds, joined forces with Mr Nicklinson’s family in campaigning to allow doctors to end his own life.  He was severely injured in a car accident in 1990 and has no function in any of his limbs, apart from a little movement in his right hand.  Mr Lamb requires 24 hour care and has told how he is ‘fed up of going through the motions of life rather than living it.’
Both of these cases highlight the growing arguments for the introduction of euthanasia.  It is a highly controversial topic which has strong arguments on both sides.
In the last few weeks the Channel 4 soap ‘Hollyoaks’ has successfully covered a euthanasia storyline involving the character Ste Hay and his mother, Pauline.  She was suffering from cancer and only had a matter of weeks to live.  Her deteriorating condition was depicted on screen and her desperation to end her suffering was portrayed.  She begged her son to put her out of her misery, explaining how she would die soon anyway and wanted to do so with dignity before it got any worse.  Ste, in the end, granted his mum’s wishes and gave her a lethal overdose which ended her life.
Luckily for Ste, he was not discovered to have been the cause of his mum’s overdose; with the police concluding that his mum took the fatal overdose without any help.  The soap, in my opinion, cleverly demonstrated the desperation felt by those who wish to end their own life.  If someone is suffering at the hands of a terrible illness, has no quality of life, and wishes to end their life in a dignified manner surrounded by family and friends then I can not see how anyone can be in a position to stop that. 
If a dog was suffering from cancer, or was finding its old age difficult, nobody would say ‘it is unfair to the dog to put it down, let’s carry on leaving it to suffer’.  So why should dogs be granted that and not humans?  A dog can’t even tell the vets how much it is hurting; a human can express this.
When Tony Nicklinson suffered his stroke it wasn’t just his life that changed.  His wife and two daughters saw their lives change, too.  They became his full time carers, having to adapt to this new situation that the family found themselves in.  Similarly, Paul Lamb and his family had to do the same.
Both had their High Court appeals turned down, which I am not surprised at.  There are many people campaigning to have their lives ended by family members or doctors and, I believe, as soon as the High Court give in to one of these cases they are going to have to give in to them all – something they will not want to do.
Euthanasia, as previously mentioned, is a very contested issue with incredibly strong arguments on both sides.  Whilst it is deemed to be humane to grant people’s wishes to end their pain and suffering it faces a wrath of anti-euthanasia arguments.  These include huge questions about pressure and abuse; the belief that it’s against the best interests of patients & brands disabled people as not worthy of life; and many religious arguments.
Some of these make a lot of sense.  There are obviously strong arguments against legalising euthanasia in Britain, otherwise it would have been done years ago.  The substantial point that it devalues life is a very valid point.  In some respects it does suggest that the disabled or terminally ill are not worthy of life.  However, in the majority of cases it is the person suffering requesting to be euthanized in order to end their pain – not someone else making the decision for them.  Inevitably, there is the danger of the legalisation of euthanasia being abused and it no longer being voluntary.  But if someone is euthanized involuntarily there would surely be support systems in place to notice this?
To me, euthanasia seems like a much fairer option than suffering.  If one of my loved ones was suffering at the hands of a terminal illness or a debilitating disease/condition, and they asked me to end their life, I would seriously think about it.  I, obviously, do not want to be arrested on a murder charge and sentenced to a spell in prison, but I would certainly join the campaign to have it legalised.  If I knew that there was a way in which I could help end the pain and suffering for someone who so desperately wanted that, I don’t see how anyone can be in a position to decline that wish.
Yes, there are issues raised over the possibility of abuse and pressure, but surely these issues are just as prevalent today even without euthanasia being legalised?
I can’t see an end in sight to this long-running debate, unfortunately.  For the families of those tirelessly campaigning for a change in the law, I hope they get what they are looking for eventually.  Nobody should have to suffer any longer than necessary.  If it isn’t right for our pets to suffer then why should our loved ones?

No comments:

Post a Comment