There have been movies made regarding the issue of being allowed to die by rejecting treatment such as in the case of ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ and also assisted suicide in the romantic tearjerker, ‘Me Before You’. It is a conversation being had by those who are terminally ill with their families. An issue being raised in society through science and religion.
While the Bishop Mitchell Rozanski raised a few fair points regarding physician-assisted suicide, such as how it is currently a time “confronted by a crisis of teen suicide” and that “such an effort would no doubt send our young people a mixed message”, religion itself prohibits one from taking their own life, regardless of suffering.
However, that has not stopped Netherlands from being the first country to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide back in April 2002. Their requirements being that “the patient must be suffering unbearable pain, their illness must be incurable, and the demand must be made in ‘full consciousness’. This passing of the law has sparked a fierce debate over the right to live and also, the right to die.
Belgium was the second country to follow in Netherlands’ footsteps and allowed doctors to “help patients end their lives when they freely express a wish to die because they are suffering intractable and unbearable pain”, and for those who have expressed their wishes of being euthanized before entering a coma or a vegetative state is also eligible for euthanization. This law has allowed a 44 year old woman, who has undergone a sex change operation that scarred and deformed her to the point that she no longer had the will to live, to receive euthanasia.
In February 2014, “Belgium became the first country to legalise euthanasia for children” of any age, and two years ago, a child who suffered from a rare genetic condition was allowed to pass. It was the first child in recorded medical history who employed the use of assisted suicide.
America has been met with fierce opposition to the act of legalizing euthanasia. Despite being a forward country, it has only passed a similar legislation in five of its states allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to patients who have expressed a wish to die and also the right for patients to forgo treatment.
One of the many reasons why assisted death is frowned upon by a large majority of the population is also due to the fact that life expectancy is not a death sentence. There are those who have managed to prevail in the fight against their terminal illness, such as in the case of Jeffrey Davitz, a scientist of artificial intelligence who was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme in an advanced stage and was only given months to live.
He was in California, which, although allowed physicians the right to prescribe him a lethal cocktail of drugs, could not take any action should he fall into a vegetative state. The only problem was, the legislation would only be passed a few months past his predicted death.
However, his condition started improving and eventually the hospice he had admitted into, discharged him on the grounds that he was healthy. The MRI scans showed that the tumour was regressing and he is still living today, aged 57, and has since been conflicted regarding self-termination. While spontaneous recovery cases like his might deliver hope to those not ready for the inevitable end, it is considered rare.
One other case study regarding the fight between cancer and a right to die with dignity comes in the form of Youssef Cohen, a victim of mesothelioma – an asbestos related cancer which this resource explains fully – and an advocate of physician assisted suicide. As of March 2016, he has battled his illness with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation to no avail. His fight has led to the legalization of euthanization in D.C for the time being, making it the seventh jurisdiction in the country to join the ‘Right To Die’ movement.
However, the laws are constantly under review due to the strong conflict of interests and controversy surrounding the topic. One aspect of assisted suicide that has received much attention, is that while it is marketed as a freedom of choice, there are departments that may abuse the newly instated legislation by offering the much cheaper alternative of a quick death instead of a long term treatment to patients and neglecting their care. There are those who might be vulnerable to these loopholes in insurance policies or health care whereby they are coerced into thinking self-termination is the best option.
The beginnings of the idea to self-euthanize was born from the intentions of merciful kindness. People put their pets to sleep daily, to save them from suffering, without their consent. And yet it is a struggle for a fully informed individual to end their own life due to pain or illness. Instead of fighting against the movement, it would be more productive to look into the prevention of abuse of the system and a protection of human rights pertaining to medically assisted suicide to prevent exploitation, and to make sure that it is humanely regulated.
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