In 1992 Annie Lindsell, who was 42, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease. Motor neuron disease is considered to be terminal and terribly painful. Annie asked the High Court, in case of unbearable pain, to let his doctor “intervene and administer diamorphine” (EUTHANASIA WORKSHEET 1 CASE STUDIES CASE STUDY 1, 2006). With the intervention of the practitioner, Annie died in peace and with no pain in 1997. The case study portrayed above illustrates the term euthanasia. Euthanasia, in other words, mercy killing, is legal only in several countries like the US, Netherlands, Belgium. In majority parts of the world euthanasia is opposed, which is in turn resulting in illegal euthanasia. Although legalization of euthanasia may encourage the practitioners in abuse of discretion, the terminally ill have right to die with dignity.
Firstly, the patients, with fatal illnesses, have right to die with dignity. As an example for terminal illness, the case of Annie can be reviewed. Motor neuron disease (MND) is an illness which slowly damages nervous system. There is no identified cause and treatment of MND. The patients of MND mostly experience choking for several hours and die in pain. As every human being has a right to live, they should have choice in dying as well. Living for several hours in pain does not change anything but tortures the patient and it is far beyond possibility to discover a treatment in short time. Moreover, when the patient knows that he is going to die without pain, death will not constitute the end of life but a natural stage of life. Thus, if euthanasia is legalized, the terminally ill can die with dignity at the allocated time.
At second, the legalization of euthanasia could bring transparency in end-of-life decision making among doctors. If the demand of assisted suicide is not met, the terminally ill starve themselves to death or physicians involve in secretly. There are probably many cases of euthanasia which are not reported just because it is illegal. Cohen-Almagor (2009) states that before legalization of euthanasia in Netherlands, one in 10 deaths among 10million population was assisted by doctors informally. The figure shows that assisted suicide cannot be denied and in order to regulate the end-of-life decisions, euthanasia should be made legal.
It might seem that the legalization of assisted suicide may encourage abuse of discretion by the practitioners. Some people concern that if euthanasia is legalized, the vulnerable old people will be the target of the process. However, according to a research, most patients who died with euthanasia “were more often younger, men, had cancer” (Smets et al., 2010, p189). In almost all cases, physical, psychological pain and suffering were reported. In fact, law made the practitioners more responsible towards the patient.
In short, even though laws approving of euthanasia may be misused, the patients have right to die with dignity and without pain. The law would work best, if the criteria of illnesses for euthanasia have been made clearer. Moreover, if each patient’s case is closely examined, the more appropriate decision could be made. Dying is humane right and the choice should always be individual.
Cohen-Almagor, R. (2009). Belgian Euthanasia Law: A Critical Analysis. Journal of Medical Ethics, 35(7), 436-439. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27720366. [Accessed: 1 November 2016].
EUTHANASIA WORKSHEET 1 CASE STUDIES CASE STUDY 1 (2006). Available from http://www.scriptureunion.org.uk/Uploads/Documents/Euthanasia-Worksheet1.pdf. [Accessed: 2 November 2016].
Smets, T. et al. (2010). Legal Euthanasia in Belgium: Characteristics of All Reported Euthanasia Cases. Medical Care, 48(2), 187-192. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27798426. [Accessed: 2 November 2016].