Case scenario: Mrs A. A., a 54 year old woman – a Christian who attends an orthodox church and business woman – was admitted to the hospital on account of inability to stand, walk and severe back pain. After 2 months on hospital admission, she had no positive improvement. She became fed up of life and told the doctor in charge that she wanted to end her life. So, she requests for medication from the doctor to take her life and end the “suffering”. The doctor refuses to consent to such, rather, decides to continue on palliative treatment.
Abstract: The question of “right to die” by euthanasia, also known as “mercy killing”, is a big question in our health system overtime related to the religious beliefs of the patient and doctor. However, with advancement in medical technology – leading to remarkably greater ability to sustain and prolong human life far beyond what was previously thought impossible coupled with corresponding growth in human right laws – many countries have legalized Euthanasia. There is no argument that there is a global acceptance of a “right to life”, the big question is, whether or not there is also conversely a “right to die”.
Globally and historically, euthanasia brings a lot of controversies legally, religiously, ethically and socially. In the legal aspect, most opponents of euthanasia base their argument on the “principle of sanity of human life” and the need to have uttermost respect for it. They base their argument on bodies which support the “right to life” such as UDHR, ICCR, whose arguments has led to development of more machines and technology to improve life. Meanwhile, the pro-euthansia population believes that, “to keep someone alive against their wishes is indignity…”, said by prof Stephen Hawkins.
Many countries have keyed into euthanasia and have legalized it, such as Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Columbia, India (passive) and Luxembourg. In 2014, Belgium became the first country in the world to remove age restrictions on euthanasia thereby legalizing it for children. However, Nigeria, our motherland criminalized euthanasia even before colonization, the customary law frowns against it.
What then is Euthanasia?
Euthanasia is derived from Greek word “eu” and “thanatos” which means good death or easy death, but different countries have different definition. According to black law dictionary, euthanasia is the act or practice of causing or hastening the death of a person who suffers from an incurable or terminal disease condition especially a painful one. Encyclopedia Britannica defines euthanasia as the practice of painless death by putting to death persons suffering from painful and incurable disease or incapacitating physical disorder or allowing them to die by withholding treatment or withdrawing artificial life support means.
Euthanasia is different from assisted suicide, where assisted suicide is the intentional act of providing a person with medical means or medical knowledge to commit suicide I.e. the person voluntarily brings about his or her own death and when doctors provide this service, it is known as Physician assisted suicide. This is practiced in countries such as Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Canada, Albania, Us of Washington, Vermont, Oregon.
Euthanasia can be an active form or passive form.
Active form: This is performed by a facilitator such as health care practitioner who not only provides the means of death also carry out the final death e.g. injecting patient with lethal medication.
Passive medication: is the act of allowing a terminally ill person to die either by withholding or withdrawing life sustaining support such as respiratory support or feeding tube.
There are 3 types of Euthanasia.
Voluntary Euthanasia : this is performed with the consent of the terminally Ill person such as a grant consent in advance or when the patient was still capable. A typical example, which is a celebrated case is the story of Dr Cox in 1992 who assented to the request of Mrs Boyes – a 70 years old woman – who was so ill and screamed like a dog when touched. He injected her with KCl (potassium chloride).
Nonvoluntary euthanasia: this is done on an incompetent or nonconsenting person.
Involuntary euthanasia: this is carried out on a competent nonconsenting person. This is widely opposed and regarded as a criminal act.
Arguments for euthanasia
1. People have a right to self-determination, thus should be allowed to choose their own fate.
2. It is an act of compassion which provides relief in cases of extreme pain and anguish particularly for terminally ill patients when all hope is clearly lost.
3. Permitting euthanasia won’t necessarily lead to unacceptable consequences.
4. It frees up scare medical facilities and funds to assist people who are less ill with high chances of survival.
Arguments against euthanasia
1. It represents an attempt to play God.
2. It devalues human life I.e. degrade sanctity to human life.
3. Legalizing it will place slippery slope which will lead to unacceptable consequences.
Different Religious standpoints on euthanasia
There have been strong opposition against euthanasia by different religious groups with some being in support of the act, such as
Euthanasia is completely unacceptable. Being contrary to the Holy Bible which says, “thou shall not kill”.
The catholic church states that intentional euthanasia whatever its form or motive is murder which is also contrary to the dignity of humans – even though life is full of pain and suffering – and respect to God. They hold a strong believe that life is a gift from God and man doesn’t have absolute dominion or control over it, likewise their believes in divine miracles and intervention, teaching that God can intervene to the affairs of man any time. They therefore believe we shouldn’t interfere with God’s plan by shortening lives.
Exceptions are Church of England and United Church of Canada, they accept passive euthanasia under some circumstances.
They believe Allah is the maker and owner of life. Euthanasia is strongly disallowed accordingly to the followin… “Do not kill yourself for verily Allah has been merciful”. “Take not life which Allah has made sacred and Allah gave life then shall he ordain you to die”…
Hinduism and Buddhism
They see mortal life as part of continuing cycle in which we are born, live, die and are reborn over and over again. The ultimate aim of each being free of this cycle is to be completely liberated from material world during each cycle of life and death. Humanbeings make progress towards their ultimate liberation, how they live and die play a vital part in deciding what their next life will be and also in shaping their journey to liberation. Shortening life interferes with the working out of the laws that govern this process and so interferes with a human being’s journey to liberation. Therefore, Hinduism and Buddhism regard all life not just human alone, so we must try to avoid harming living things this rules out killing even if they want to die.
Exception some part believe helping to end a painful life is performing a good deed and fulfilling moral obligation.
In conclusion religious stands on euthanasia has taken a strong stand against it therefore palliative care is taken to consideration when treating patients.
Bright E Oniha Journal