Thursday, April 20, 2017

Euthanasia Opens Path To A Dignified Death / By: Bruce Wilds

Few people paid attention when a recent change in the law made it easier to obtain a physician's help in ending your life in Canada and many of those who did take note voiced concern or even outrage. One of the most controversial issues and something that is seldom discussed today is the matter of people having the right to determine when they want to die. This includes both society not only respecting that right and allowing it to take place. Most people would prefer to live a long life, but not too long. In coming years do not be surprised to see more people embrace the attitude that there is nothing wrong with a dignified death after a long life. What is far beyond those markers is the right for total determination, possibly the reason the first idea is taboo could be it might open the floodgates and allow the idea of total determination to edge towards acceptance. 
Hospice Care Is Widely Accepted, Euthanasia Is Not!

Clearly, the mores of America and our culture are rapidly changing this can be seen by the capitulation of those who only a decade ago thought that gay marriage and gays in the military would never become accepted. Sadly ideas like euthanasia and even discrete breastfeeding in public still drive many Americans crazy. Weather you agree or disagree with the idea of euthanasia it is destined to become a major social issue in coming years. In part this is linked to the economics of extending the lives of the elderly and the great cost of doing so.

With people living longer and technologies ability to extend a person's life well beyond where they feel it has any "real quality" the issue of euthanasia will not go away. A big problem with the Universal Health Care model in the United States is that we have a much more death-averse and drug-centric mentality than any other nation working such a system. Americans, generally, expect to receive the latest advances in life extension therapies and life-enhancing drugs. A completely different ideology will have to be established in the relationship between our population and the medical community for this to function in a cost effective way. Accepting death as part of the natural order would go a long way in solving many of the problems. I contend that a person of reasonably sound mind should have the right to say, "I have had enough! End my life Now!"

In the United States, with its culture of optimism and its religiosity, many people want to postpone dying at any cost often including that of pain. Why religious people tend to feel this way is unclear. For some Christians, dying in pain is welcomed or at least endured because it makes them feel closer to Christ. Others believe that the decision as to when a person dies is reserved to God, this is the stated basis of the official Catholic position that sees suicide as a mortal sin. But not all Americans feel that way and many people who are suffering acutely, anticipating suffering acutely, or find themselves lonely or depressed may want to die. Watching an elderly loved one die in pain from an incurable illness or watching a life cut short without notice can bring many issues into focus. The last few grains in an hourglass always seem to rush by faster, we should never take for granted how many good years we have left.

Confronting our own mortality sooner rather than later is conducive to living a better and more balanced life, mortality influences our values and feelings about everyday life. Recent opinion polls show many people want laws changed to allow people to get medical help to die. The word "euthanasia" was first used in a medical context by Francis Bacon in the 17th century, it refers to a painless and peaceful death, during which it was a "physician's responsibility to alleviate the physical sufferings of the body." Physician-assisted suicide is now legal in Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and several U.S. states (Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington). It is quasi-legal in France and tolerated in a number of countries in which it continues to be illegal. Where euthanasia is allowed checks and balances exist to protect against coercion and decisions make by a person depressed or not of sound mind.

Teaching and thinking about death without heavy religious connotations often sheds more insight onto life and strips away illusions of one's immortality. Current governments laws are in conflict with the changing views of many citizens. Some people who want to die commit suicide, but others do not out of fear that their attempt will fail and leave them even worse off than before, or because they lack confidence that they can kill themselves discreetly and painlessly. Suicide also carries a huge social stigma, because of the public character of a suicide one cannot dispose of one’s own corpse. People who want to die often shy away from committing suicide because of these issues. Even if one argues that by their inaction they actually are choosing to live many would be far better off if they could deal with their problems in an open way.

Suicide Carries With It A Stigma And Possibility Of Failure
In the case of physician-assisted suicide, the "stigma cost" of suicide is reduced or disappears, because if a person who wants to die is allowed to chose a lawful form of medical “treatment,” this signals that suicide is acceptable at least when a physician oversees the act. The religious people whom I mentioned will not be assuaged; but religious people shouldn’t be permitted to impose their sectarian values on others, including both religious and non-religious people, who do not share the abhorrence that some religious people feel toward suicide.

The biography of distinguished federal court of appeals judge Henry Friendly reports that he committed suicide in his 80s because, suffering from a variety of ills that were not disabling and did not prevent him from doing his judicial work, he was afraid that he would become disabled and when that happened he would be unable to end his life though desperately eager to do so. If able to pre-arrange a painless physician-effected death to occur when he reached a specified stage of disability, he would not have killed himself when he did. I use this example because this man was not considered a "flake or unhinged" but what most of us would consider normal. One thing is clear and that is even where the decision to end your life is available it is limited and governed so that a person can't just walk into a clinic and end it all without some thought and while in a one-time deep state of depression.

In my opinion, we will sooner or later willingly or be pushed into excepting euthanasia partly because of the rising cost of caring for the elderly. Expect the debate to continue, however, allowing euthanasia and even physician-assisted suicide could improve many lives by reducing apprehension about the future and at the same time eliminating much of the fear and stigma surrounding it. Euthanasia is in many ways an option to how people can end their pain, torment, or loneliness and can be a less costly one than killing oneself unaided. To me this is a non-issue, the government should not enter this area of individual autonomy and freedom of choice. It is amazing almost incomprehensible that society accepts putting an animal to sleep as a humane way to end its pain but refuses the same to the more advanced animal said to possess the quality of self-determination that we know as man.

Footnote; Your comments are welcome and encouraged. It should be noted a similar version of this post appeared on my blog on December 17th, 2013. Below is an article that focuses on how the young will be burdened in the future by having to support the older Americans that have been promised so much. Do not be surprised if the young come to embrace euthanasia.

Footnote #2; It appears this issue is becoming more important in China according to the Bloomberg following article.

Footnote #3; In the "believe it or not" column I submit that even using the term, "euthanasia" on some sites will throw your comment into the "awaiting approval" area where it is then disallowed. I have found this to be true even on media that is supposedly open to different ideas such as the PBS Newshour.

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