The argument for and against euthanasia is a painful one for many. The conversation is incredibly serious when we talk about ending a life. Though for me it is clear that if someone who is of sound mind chooses to end their life due to their suffering it is a choice we should all respect. It is important to set out firm rules around this but kindness would say that it is the right thing to do.
There are many issues people site that surrounding euthanasia that isn’t the issue itself. The main one is that people may maliciously use this to end the life of someone legally. Against their will and choice, this would be a terrible event but little to no evidence of this has been shown in places that have legalised euthanasia. I’d encourage you to listen to the podcast by Andrew Denton: Better Off Dead. In it these concerns are discussed and the people who handle these matters put forward their experiences.
To me these concerns, whilst needing to be safe guarded against, are not the true reasons why people oppose Euthanasia. It is a terrible decision and must be incredibly painful to have a love one make. The reason I feel euthanasia is objected to is not as pragmatic as possible nefarious use. It is more deeply emotional and ingrained in the feeling part of the brain.
Here are the 3 reasons I believe people choose no:
The R word, while not my favourite form of thought it has served humanity for some time. The problem is that religion and the reasoning behind it has been eclipsed by medical technology. The idea that all life is sacred is an important one, and when the average life was in the 50s you could understand the thought.
In the present day we see people living to ages only made possible by medical technology. Therefor the arguments against falls a little flat. You should not intervene in Gods will except to keep people alive longer than they wish. Like many parts of modern society, religion attempts to apply 4th century logic to 21st problems.
I believe you should be allowed to follow whatever your religion teaches you. If that is your decision than we should honour it but you should also honour those who disagree with you. I would not expect a religious institution to accept or endorse Euthanasia. I also do not expect religion to impose their rules on the unfaithful.
It is hard for religious people to do this I understand, to separate their views from the rights of others. On this subject I think it is imperative. The people asking for Euthanasia are not doing it trivially. They are at the end of their lives and often in pain that cannot be stopped. Mercy is needed even if not be your kind. Can you really hold yourself responsible for the ongoing pain of another person?
While I think Religion is a reason people site, to me its more of an enforcer. It puts into words a deep fear we all have. Fear of abandonment and death. Putting onto parchment a reason to avoid engaging with those fears. God commands it; while I fear it. Giving up the responsibility of fear to a higher power. Enduring another’s pain so you need not face what you really feel.
2. Don’t Do This To Me
This I think is central to why so many people oppose Euthanasia. Not because they think it’ll be used negatively or that somehow it will anger their God. It’s a terribly selfish and painful urge. Its one that sits in the subconscious and is such a strong drive.
To those who have lost a loved one, the pain is immense and overwhelming. To see someone you love in pain and slip away could be no greater tragedy. The fear comes from the knowledge that they are gone, they won’t hold your hand or speak to you again. This transition from being to unbeing for all of human history has been an obsession.
Even when religion tells us that there is a better place, in the moment the pain is too great. When I say that it is selfish, it is not meant in a negative sense. Whilst you are thinking of yourself, particularly when the person is in deep pain, it is love that drives this. Love that refuses to let go.
I feel it is like the philosophical trolley problem: you are driving a train and it is careening towards five people who cannot get off the track. You have a choice though, you can flip a switch to go down another track and kill one person. Its your choice, do nothing and kill five people or flip the switch and kill one.
In this problem and Euthanasia, it is a problem of choice. If you choose to flip the switch you will be responsible for the death. If you do nothing, you do not make an active choice to kill the five. Just like Euthanasia we would choose to absolve ourselves of that choice.
Don’t do this to me; it must be heard so often in places where Euthanasia is legal. It is a terribly painful cry, and the person choosing to end their life must be so incredibly saddened by their choice. This must go to show the magnitude of their pain.
Whilst selfish it is understandable, I know the pain of seeing a loved one pass away and it is still painful to this day. Many years later it doesn’t leave you. What I know is that they are no longer in pain from living. It wasn’t their choice but if it had been I would have supported it. I would have suppressed the urge to yell out don’t do this to me because it’s not about me, it’s about their pain and life.
3. I fear death
Death is an unfortunate consequence of life. No one knows what it truly feels like to die and the thought terrifies us. As a species we are obsessed with the idea of death, to the point where we have built giant monuments to it. Death causes us to spend thousands on it, to pray to God for it. The uncomfortable truth is that death is an end, a darkness that we all so strongly wish to avoid.
This I think may sit underneath everything. In the base of our brain we have all manner of mechanisms to avoid death. We are a machine that is design to do one thing and that is live. Death is always the opponent, succumbing to it must feel like a failure of nature.
This irrationality again is understandable with such strong drivers for living. We as a species have almost completely outgrown this lower brain activity. In our technology and understanding we have left it behind. Yet all manner of decisions that would benefit from the logic centres seem controlled by our lizard brain.
If you look at society, so many things that happen are driven off emotion not fact. Nothing is more emotive than death. Nothing do we truly fear as death. This is a problem when someone has broken through that lizard brain and is asking for death. Imagine the pain and suffering that could circumvent something so strong.
My belief in euthanasia is an acknowledgment of what that person must be enduring. The torment that person must be facing, to say I am ready to die. I fear death, is not a reason to stop someone else embracing it.
Ask yourself this one question: Should your fear control the actions of someone else? Is that fair?
My support of euthanasia is my support of humanity. It is the acknowledgment that some people’s pain is to great and it is cruel to not allow them this last request. To honour their choice because it is honouring the person.
I support euthanasia because I acknowledge that any disagreement to it is rooted in an illogical fear. That for me to be humane I need to think a little less human.
I support euthanasia because I have been inflicted the pain of a loved ones death. The pain of their suffering was so much greater.
This is a difficult subject and one that I think needs to be resolved. We have chosen to keep people alive longer than their bodies were intended for. It is only fair we allow them to choose when that gift becomes a burdain.
We will never escape pain, we can delay it but it always comes. I would choose that a person whose death is coming, does not suffer all the way to it. I hope to allow them the dignity of choosing when they are ready to move on. For that is their very personal decisions, my personal fears should not supersede this.