Friday, October 17, 2008

Euthanasia and the right to die….


A 79-year-old man visited his 62-year-old wife in a nursing home. Once a successful businesswoman, the wife, now suffering from advanced Alzheimer's disease, screamed constantly and was unable to speak. The man pushed his wife's wheelchair into the stairwell, where he killed her with a pistol shot. The district attorney who prosecuted the husband called his action "classic first-degree murder", but the jury refused to indict, and he went free!!


The husband as far as we can tell was practicing 'Euthanasia' or 'Mercy Killing'. All Megadeth fans must be familiar with this term as Euthanasia (Youthanasia) was one of their best selling albums, but what does it really signify??


Euthanasia is basically of two types:


'Active Euthanasia', is an action deliberately taken with the purpose of shortening or ending life in order to end the suffering of a terminally ill patient.

'Passive Euthanasia', takes the form of 'Mercy Killing’, which takes the form of withholding treatment that might extend life, such as medication, life support system etc.


Although active euthanasia is extremely controversial, most people are in favor of it. The question here is pretty much the same like,’ Is abortion a medical procedure, or is it murder'? Do people have the right to take their own lives? If so, under what circumstances? What is the legal liability of someone who helps a person commit suicide? In 1984, The Dutch Medical Association issued guidelines for doctors to participate in euthanasia: -


*The request must be made constantly and freely by the patient,

*The patient's condition must be unbearable and without any hopes of recovery whatsoever,

*Another physician must agree on the advisability and the method of euthanasia.



Active Euthanasia remains a criminal offense in Netherlands if these guidelines are not followed. But in India, with the law and order situation in a mess and corruption on peak, most doctors feel that euthanasia will be devastatingly misused, which, I'm afraid is absolutely true. Of late, people have woken up to this issue, and have started to take help of what is called a "Living Will". A Living Will is a document that simply explains the measures a person wants, or does not want, to be taken if he or she ever faces a situation where in he or she is terminally ill or mentally incompetent.


With the mind-blowing progress in medication, we have technologies that can keep a person alive indefinitely, after the brain has, for all practical purposes, stopped functioning. Wouldn’t it be fundamentally correct then, to allow such a person to die in peace, if there is no possibility of recovery? Even if such a person is kept alive, what is the point in living such a life??


This problem is so fundamental that it has moved beyond the boundaries of medicine. In my opinion, Euthanasia (if implemented properly with the right intentions) is all right. After all, human beings were created by God to live, not to 'Exist'. And by the law, if you can't force anyone to die, you shouldn't be allowed to force anyone to live either!!


PS: Someone asked Guruji this time if Mercy Killing was right or wrong – and He pretty much said the same thing, that if done with right intentions, it is ok! I was relieved!