The answer to that question is yes. As human beings we should all have the right to end our suffering and to choose a dignified, quiet death. Euthanasia is the hastening of death for a suffering, terminally ill person. It is a quiet and easy death. Indeed, the term euthanasia quite literally means in Greek a good death. Euthanasia should be made a legal procedure within Australia as any such legalisation would give people the legal right to choose a ‘good death’, a dignified death for them. As human beings we have the right to vote, to take responsibility for our actions and to make our own choices.
We are an autonomous people with a right to self-sufficiency, independence and to self-regulation, so why should we not have the right to choose whether or not our lives should end if there is little or no hope of recovery? Every person should have the legal right to make choices regarding their own lives and according to their own values as long as these choices do not impinge on the liberties of others. The choice of a terminally ill person to die does not impinge on the liberties of others – only their own.
When the only alternative is suffering, we should all be allowed the option of a planned and dignified exit. By legalising euthanasia we would be offered this opportunity. An example of the extreme suffering endured by a terminally ill patient is Melbourne resident Sandra Williamson, a motor neurone disease sufferer. Her disease caused progressive deterioration of muscles and continued until all her bodies muscles ceased to function. Simple tasks such as walking, breathing and speaking all became excruciatingly difficult and painful.
Sandra could not move her body from her waist down, she could no longer read, needed a respirator and she woke of a night gasping for air. Eventually speech became impossible, she was fed through a tube and needed artificial ventilation as her lungs entirely ceased to function. Death from this disease occurs through respiratory paralysis, choking or pneumonia. This distressed woman wanted to end her suffering through euthanasia, cherishing what dignity she had left. In her own words “I don’t want to end my life, I just was to end my suffering”. However, the legal system prevented her from doing so.
Image if it were you in a similar situation. Would you rather die surrounded by the support of loving family and friend on your own terms or would you prefer to be slowly eaten away by such a disease, wrapped in starched sheets, surrounded by the cold, sterile walls of a hospital room? It is not barbaric to let people is such a situation die an easy and painless death, however it is an atrocity to deprive them of the freedom and relief death that can so often bring. Those antagonistic towards euthanasia often claim that legalisation would mean it would be abused and misused.
However, appropriate procedures and safeguards would be installed to provide maximum protection for patients and doctors involved. Precautions such as clarification of a voluntary request, secondary medical opinions, informed consultation and psychiatric evaluations combined with open ended time restraints would ensure a patients full understanding and compliance with euthanasia. Such precautions have been installed in the Netherlands where euthanasia is legal and they have not been abused. On a similar vein, opponents of euthanasia often argue that people would be forced into using euthanasia.
But not everyone should or would choose to terminate their life through euthanasia. Should euthanasia become justly legalised, it would serve as a pathway available to all but not compulsory. No one would be taken advantage of or be pressured to undergo this procedure. Fundamentally, it is a matter of personal choice, a choice that should be legally available for those who are terminally ill and are experiencing extreme suffering, a choice that should be respected and an understanding of when enough is enough.
If that choice is unable to be made by the patient and a terminally ill person is in a position where they are unable to make a decision regarding euthanasia then it should be the right of the doctors and patients family to make the informed and well considered choice for the patient. But this would only occur when relieving the patients suffering through euthanasia is the only viable and humane option available. Finally, the essence of human existence is to be able to live a dignified life.
When some law forces one to continue living in intense pain and humiliation there is something wrong with our society, therefore euthanasia should be legalised. All individuals should have the legal right to an humane death, that is one without undue pain, suffering or indignity. Euthanasia is compassionate, merciful and humane. Legalisation of euthanasia would give people without hope of recovery the option and the right to a dignified death, a ‘good death’, a death that is within their rights.