Euthanasia: Right to Die

“At my age, I get up in the morning. I eat breakfast. And then I just sit until lunchtime. Then I have a bit of lunch and just sit. What’s the use of that?” David Goodall, a 104-year-old Australian scientist, decided to end his life at a clinic in Switzerland.

Having a longer life may be the wish for many people, but considering the process of aging and dying, it can be unpleasant. You may notice the world is blurrier because of lost vision. You may find two hearing aids are not even enough to hear all the sounds because of diminished hearing ability. You may realize most of your time is spent in two places—your wheelchair and the bed—because your legs are no longer supportive. David Goodall questions the purpose of life in his declining health: “Life has become less worth living, and I don’t feel enjoyable right now.” He believes that life is about quality not quantity. With today’s advanced medical treatment, death has turned into a process of dying as opposed to a more natural end of life; A person can be kept alive for a prolonged period of time with powerful medications and intense life-support equipment. This revolutionary technology, however, prioritizes life over death even if living means being fully dependent on others and being unhappy. In these circumstances, an individual such as David Goodall might prefer to be dead. The technique of euthanasia, in which individuals choose to have a lethal injection, provides terminally ill people with the option to die, which allows people to end a life they find unenjoyable.

Many people who are against euthanasia argue that advanced pain medications and palliative sedation involved in end-of-life care are better ways to treat severe pain, than lethal injections are. However, this argument is unsubstantial. Not all pain is controllable with medication. Peter Ketelslegers is a 33 year old man who suffers from a rare condition called cluster headaches. Theses intensive headaches often lead to many hours of unbearable pain, which are neither treatable nor deadly. To stop the suffering, Peter Ketelslegers considers the option of euthanasia as the only feasible relief for his suffering. Even through pain medications alleviate many symptoms for a short period of time, they are overall ineffective for some diseases. In Peter’s case, the pain can last for hours and reoccur several times a day, and no pain medication proves suitable in alleviating his suffering. He cannot work and becomes the person who is needed to be taken of.

Furthermore, almost all pain medications can cause people to experience negative side effects. For example, NSAIDs are common pain relief medicines, but, they can also cause nausea, stomach pain, bleeding, and thus may add to a person’s suffering. The misuse of seemingly safe over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen sends nearly 200,000 people to the hospital each year. Pain cannot be wholly treated by these medications which may have the potential to increase the ongoing suffering. In many cases where pain medications have proven unequipped, euthanasia is a necessary option for people to find the ultimate relief.

Also, while dying is not pleasant and even disgraceful, euthanasia gives people a right to die with dignity and a chance to control their lives. In this process, people gradually lose the ability to manage their lives. They can be completely dependent on others, and their lives are not their own. Some people cannot ever eat without the aid of a feeding tube. Some people can’t breathe without oxygen therapy. Life is sustained by the machines, but not by the person. Many people feel their dignities are taken away. In fact, 73% of Americans support legalizing euthanasia according to Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll.

Legalization of euthanasia would provide people the right to die with dignity. People who are in severe, suffering, incurable and disabling conditions should have the right to choose death over continued life. Based on the American Constitution, Americans have the right to refuse life-prolonging treatment, so it is reasonable to allow people to have the right of choosing euthanasia. If the decision is made autonomously under rigorous law, then people should be allowed to have this right.

The legalization of euthanasia has been successful in other countries. In the Netherlands, euthanasia has been legalized for almost seventeen years, and only a handful of cases have brought suspicion. “Since 2006, there has been a 317% increase in assisted deaths, but only 10 cases referred by a Regional Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission for investigation.”

However, people who are against euthanasia argue that legalization of euthanasia has the potential to allow unreported and suspicious deaths, which account for 23% of all assisted deaths in the Netherlands. However, we can improve the system by applying more structured laws. Still, some people concern that there could be tremendous effort and cost to supervise the system. In my belief, if one’s actual desire can be ultimately accomplished under laws or in more transparent system, it is still worth to contribute the effort if people can obtain the terminal peace. Legalizing euthanasia is not only reasonable, but also moral to guarantee people the right to make decision on their own lives. Euthanasia aims to provide people the choice and right to death.

Death is not always terrifying and horrible. For some people, it is even privilege and relief. “I’m looking forward to [death],” as David Goodall said. “I have brought the idea of euthanasia to light.” Legalizing euthanasia does not send people to death, but just simply to give people a chance to choose.