Reflections on Euthanasia – Week 5

Both writing my own post, and reading other people’s posts made me consider that this particular subject is fraught with difficulties, and in many ways it would be easier just to stick to the clear moral path that Killing is Wrong and we should always strive to save lives and to enhance the quality of life.

Part of me would like to stay at that point and not have to address all the issues involved in this very difficult subject.

I really feel like “burying my head in the sand”

Figure with head buried in sand

But I truly believe that I would be a moral coward if I did that.

Umr starts off his post by stating that “ in order to address the topic as effectively as I need to, I find that I first have to look into where I stand on resources previously discussed, things such as equality, morality, torture?” and I totally agree. I had to revisit my thinking on previous topics, especially equality and morality, and also to give some consideration to my ideas on Freedom.

Lisa asks “Why does euthanasia carry such a strong social stigma today? Perhaps it has to do with the perceived mentality of “killing off the weakest and most dependent members in our society” or “killing those unworthy of life”.” This is a good question, and once we are advocating the right to a life of equality and freedom, it is difficult to argue for deliberate taking of life.  Difficult, but I firmly believe that it should be debated.

I felt it was important for me to spend some time trying to gain some insight into the lives of people in the unfortunate position of living with suffering and incapacity, and their views on this subject. I revisited some of the stories which have been in the news here in the UK, including Dianne Pretty who suffered from Motor Neurone Disease and fought unsuccessfully in the British courts to try and change the law so she could take her own life,  instead dying “in the way she always feared”.

The story of Brooke Hopkins, a University Professor in the USA whose wife happened to be a Medical Ethicist who specialised in end of life decisions, which Tony highlighted in his blog really demonstrates the many complexities and ambiguities in these cases, and once again I found myself thinking there is no easy answer.

Cecil writes about a very different, yet no less heart-wrenching, case of a French woman who suffers from intractable pain and also disfiguring facial deformity who also wants to be allowed to end her life.

I tried very hard to imagine what these individuals were going through, but in the end came to the conclusion which Jackie came to: that we will “never truly understand and empathize with somebody who legitimately requests for assisted suicide”.

I cannot know how I would feel in their situation; I can only guess at how I might react.

I find I keep coming back to the question I asked in my original post on this topic:

Does “right to life” mean “an obligation to live”?

To me, the answer to that question is No.

I still strongly believe that Locked-in Syndrome and terminal illness with intractable pain certainly diminish human dignity, and that it is harder morally to justify letting somebody die a slow and painful death than it is to justify helping them to avoid it.

I find myself thinking that in these very extreme cases then euthanasia should be considered; otherwise we’re potentially condemning the patient to a life of suffering.

Could condemning an individual to a life of suffering which they no longer want be called “passive torture”?


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3 responses to “Reflections on Euthanasia – Week 5”

  1. noameitan says :

    Hi Wendy, great reflections, love the photo of the man burried his head on the sand I think most people will rather do that dealing with death,because there are so many different opinion and because most of us cherish life it is hard for us to understand or to try to understand someone who doesn’t want to live anymore.

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  1. Week 5: Reflection | Chantelle van den Berg - August 18, 2013

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