Life and death are the undeniable truths of every human’s life. In our western civilization, the beginning of life is celebrated, whereas death is supposed to be mourned. Due to the negative connotations surrounding the notion of death, humans have tried throughout the ages to prolong life, no matter the cost. However, for some people, death can come as a welcome relief. People who are suffering from terminally ill and incurable, painful diseases should have the right to end their suffering by choosing to terminate their life peacefully. In medicine, the procedure of painlessly ending a patient’s life by a physician’s assistance is called euthanasia.
Independence and dignity are the core values of our society so it may come as a surprise to some that euthanasia is still a controversial topic. If a patient is barely surviving and existing, deprived of a quality life, then it would be better for them to eternally rest in peace rather than wrestle every living moment with suffering. If patients are given the right to accept or refuse a medical treatment, then they also should be given the right to get euthanized.
The practice of fasting to death, known as santhara in Jainism and prayopavesa in Hinduism, are mentioned in the scriptures of these ancient religions. Terminally ill patients with limited life expectancy of a few months can enter a process of fasting, gradually rejecting all food and liquids until the body succumbs to death. Here, euthanasia can be used as a tool to minimize continued suffering in a controlled environment if the patient wishes to choose this path.
Although I am in favor of euthanasia, I can understand the public’s fear of its abuse by medical professionals – with great power comes greater responsibility. Since each patient is unique, each case should be looked upon individually before a decision is made to perform euthanasia. There must be adequate checks and balances system put in place by the state, led by medical professionals, to attempt to avoid any possible abuse of this great responsibility. Even in Belgium, the country where euthanasia is legal, each patient request is analyzed in detail before being accepted.
No one should be forced to live a painful life, the same way that no one should be forced to end one. I believe in giving respect and the right of autonomy of a terminally ill patient over their own body because it is their life and choice.
College of Podiatric Medicine & Surgery at Des Moines University
Class of 2020
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