Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines euthanasia as The act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.
It is legal to euthanize animals. We who care deeply about our animals know that sometimes euthanizing them is the merciful thing to do. They get old and sick just like people. While some of the elderly and infirmed animals are warehoused in no kill shelters (Are you thinking just like people?), others are humanely put down.
Why can’t we offer the same humanity to our human friends and loved ones? Only four states, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Vermont permit Physician Assisted Dying (PAD), or assisted suicide: euthanasia. In the rest of the states, when the doctor turns off the ventilator, we call it, letting the patient go. Is there a difference?
The rest of our country requires human beings to go through a ‘dog and pony show’ to end their lives if they so desire. Helium, plastic bags, tape and possibly a variety of pills and equipment are needed to do the job.
Some years ago, we had a friend with a serious anal fixation. We used to joke about it until he got colon cancer. Then it wasn’t funny any more. Jack suffered through rectal exams, enemas, chemo therapy, and radiation treatments. Some helped. Other’s didn’t.
Maybe Jack could have survived. But he had had enough. He wanted out, was ready to die, begged his doctor to help him do it. When that didn’t work, he joined The Hemlock Society, collected the required pills and paraphernalia, and with the support of his wife and family, ended it all. Did someone assist him? We don’t know, but if so, in any of the states not named above, that person could have been charged with murder.
Atheists believe life is ephemeral and self determined. Some religions, Judaism for one, rejects the idea that human beings have autonomous control over their own bodies. It dictates that people’s bodies are merely ‘temporary bailments’ meant to house souls given by God and that He determines for what and for how long. Christian and Muslin beliefs are similar but with the caveat that there is an afterlife for the perpetuation of the soul.
Nevertheless, unrelenting, intractable, unceasing pain can nullify all that, and then where do people turn?
A member of my family is deeply involved with hospice. She would argue that once it is determined by the medical community that a person is terminal with six months or fewer to live, one of numerous hospice organizations may step in and provide palliative care including drugs to lessen or eliminate the pain. But there are rules and regulations—safeguards, to follow. What of those people who don’t meet the necessary criteria?
There are lots of organizations standing by to help—Compassion and Choices, End-of-Life Choices, and The Hemlock Society— and Final Exit, a book on the subject written by Derek Humphreys.
However, in most states in this country, assisted suicide—that’s what it’s called—is a criminal act, punishable by jail sentences and/or fines.
It’s a question for thought.