A recent newspaper report talked of a middle aged lady with a progressive neurodegenerative disease opting for a physician assisted death. This got me thinking as to what is would be an ethical response to a terminally ill patient.
Sorting out certain terms could be a good start.
- Active euthanasia: when a person takes proactive steps to cause his or her own death or the death of another
- Passive euthanasia: when the available medical treatment which can clearly prolong the life of a person is deliberately withheld or withdrawn
- Letting die: this is different from euthanasia. It is withholding Or withdrawing life prolonging drugs or technology from a terminally ill person with whom death is imminent even with treatment. Prevents undue prolongation of the dying process.
Physician assisted death is categorized under the broad heading of euthanasia.
I am personally of the opinion that there are two things a person cannot choose for himself…Birth and death.
Since euthanasia is a term used for diseases that cannot be cured by the prevelent medical knowledge it is good to remind ourselves that today we have a definite cure for those diseases that were considered incurable few years ago. So probably letting a patient die today would mean denying him a cure tomorrow.
So what about the pain and emotional trauma the patient goes through? Medical science has progressed to an extent where we have very high efficacy anelgesic (painkillers) and anti anxiety drugs. These have been found very effective and can even provide a normal life with an emotional state of well being till the natural process of death takes over. These drugs form an integral component of palliative care.
Another aspect is the financial burden on the family. Our government policies and protocols do offer financial assistance. Other than that there are many NGOs that are ready to bring the family in touch with sponsorers who can support them further. Above all it is a personal conviction as to what we value more and what our priorities are.
From a moral and spiritual point of view I believe every person born must die. When the purpose for which each of us was put here is completed we will be called back and disease is just a reason for that. Only the person who decided the timing for our birth has a right to decide the timing for our death. Willfull action of reducing our time here is an outright rejection of God’s greatest gift called life. So let’s trust His timings.
This is a difficult decision to make. But our lives are worth this choice. We are given this life because we are strong enough to live it, strong enough not to bow out of the fight and strong enough to finish it.