There is some truth to many of the comments in a letter to the editor published Aug. 11 regarding euthanasia, but, sadly, the letter goes further.
We have all seen a friend or family member suffer as they watch a loved one suffer needlessly, a loved one whose only reason for existence is a ventilator. Have you ever heard them cry in anguish or anger, “I swear if I ever reach that point, just give me a gun and let me be done with it.”
There is a small problem with that.
When such people actually reach that stage, they don’t realize it. Those same people have slipped into an illness and have lost the cognitive ability to know they, too, have friends and relatives who will deplore what they have become. A friend or family member who could go on for years suffering the very agony they wanted to avoid.
A living will can help to a certain degree, but what is really needed is a more compassionate and intelligent nation. The question the letter writer asks, “When does euthanasia begin?” simply isn’t valid. We do not have the legal means to take another person’s life. Sure, there are ways, but it’s against the law. The real question, the complex question we must face soon as a compassionate people, is “When should we allow life to end?”
Ethicists cannot reach a definitive answer based on personal or religious beliefs. Others are quite willing to use the tools available to end suffering. It makes sense for the patient, the family and cost. Yes there’s that ugly word, cost.
It costs hundreds of thousand dollars to keep terminal patients alive with our current armament of medical equipment and drugs. A case in point is the London family who went to court to keep their patron on a respirator, even though doctors agreed unanimously he was brain dead and would never contribute to society again. The courts ruled in favour of the family.
A fair and balanced system is there for the asking, with the safeguards to ensure people are not euthanised when there is any chance of recovery.
But to allow proud people to spend their final days in agony, pain and helplessness should not be part of our culture. If we don’t resolve this soon, God help any of us who live to the age where we too have to go through it.
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