Euthanasia: commonly asked questions ...

What is euthanasia?

Euthanasia is the deliberate and intentional killing of a human being by a direct action such as lethal injection, or by the failure to perform even the most basic medical care such as the provision of nutrition and hydration necessary to maintain life.

Euthanasia is not...

  1. the ceasing of medical treatment that is unwanted, imposes excessive burdens on the patient or is futile i.e. incapable of providing benefit.
  2. the use of drugs in doses sufficient to relieve very severe pain. The use of pain relieving drugs is limited only by the side effects produced by those drugs. Such drugs rarely endanger life unless used deliberately in extremely high doses to those unaccustomed to receiving those drugs. Medical actions intended to relieve suffering are ethical and lawful, as are the withdrawal of treatments that are only unnecessarily prolonging dying. Though the patient may later die of his or her terminal illness and though such death was foreseen, death was not intended by what was done. To describe these practices as euthanasia is misleading. Good medical practice is NOT active killing.

Other euthanasia terms:

Voluntary Euthanasia — this refers to patients who are mentally competent and who ask to be killed in order to relieve either physical or emotional distress, which they declare unacceptable. In response, someone would intentionally kill them.

Medically Assisted Suicide — this refers to a situation where a person would be provided with the means of committing suicide and then would personally perform the act.

Involuntary Euthanasia — this refers to people whose consent is not sought or given, or who cannot express their wishes due to immaturity (such as a new born infant), mental disability, mental or physical illness, or coma. In these instances it is decided by others that the person should be killed.

Who would do the killing?

It is usually assumed that the medical profession would do the killing, despite the fact that every medical association in the world forbids euthanasia as being unethical. In the context of any illness, the doctor’s role is to alleviate suffering, not to kill. If euthanasia were available, the motivation to improve patient care and to see advances in medical science would be lessened. The doctor/patient relationship, which is based on trust, would be severely damaged.

Why euthanasia has been rejected:

In 1996, the Australian House of Representatives voted to overturn the Northern Territory Euthanasia Legislation. The Senate confirmed this action in 1997. As well, every major Government inquiry around the world has strongly recommended against legalizing euthanasia (Canada 1982, Victoria 1987, Great Britain 1994, New York State 1994). Most of the British House of Lord’s select committee members initially supported euthanasia, including the Chairman, Lord Walton, who had been a medical consultant to the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. However, after thorough research and a trip to the Netherlands, the committee unanimously opposed the legalizing of euthanasia, concluding:

“It would be next to impossible to ensure all the acts were truly voluntary. We are concerned that vulnerable people — the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed — would feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to request an early death.”

“We believe that the message which society sends to vulnerable and disadvantaged people should not, however obliquely, encourage them to seek death, but should assure them of our care and support in life.”

Can euthanasia be controlled?

The Dutch Experience.

Euthanasia is allowable and widely practiced in Holland. It is supposed to be subject to safe, established government guidelines but it has been proven that it has been widely abused. It is a disaster that we must not copy. The Dutch experience proves that euthanasia is not able to be controlled.

Commonly Asked Questions:

1 What about my ‘right to die’?

Although a ‘right to die’ is claimed, what is meant instead is a right to be killed. There has never been a right to be killed in any code of ethics. It is a deceptive concept, and no argument is ever made to support it. Since there is no right to be killed, others are not required to kill or assist in killing, nor should they do so.

2 Why should I have to suffer?

Today, doctors can relieve pain and other problems associated with chronic or terminal illness. It is said by many experts in the field, that if pain is not under control then the patient is being mismanaged. The intention should be to eliminate distress in the patient not to eliminate the patient in distress.

3 Shouldn’t I be allowed to ‘die with dignity’?

Certainly. However, it is a contradiction in terms to think that an act of killing can achieve a ‘dignified’ or ‘natural’ death. There is nothing dignified about being killed. Dying people should be treated with true dignity where their needs are met by providing effective medical care which values their worth.

4 But don’t life support systems stop people dying a natural death?

The pro-life position is not to prolong life “at any cost”. The euthanasia movement has created the myth that there are many patients who should simply be allowed to die a natural death, being kept alive artificially on life support systems. The facts are quite different. Such systems are not used to keep people artificially alive in this manner. Patients receiving intensive care on life support systems either have a definite chance of recovery, or conditions that are not yet fully diagnosed or their prognosis is uncertain. Life support systems have their place in the care and recovery of many patients.

5 Do I have the right to refuse medical treatment?

Yes, common law has always held that you have a right not to be treated without your consent. For a doctor to ignore this, is a form of assault. You can make an informed decision to accept or refuse medical treatment if you are competent, but if you are not competent, someone else must make an informed choice on your behalf.

6 What about the severely disabled or deformed?

Who is to judge whether a person’s life is ‘meaningless’ or not? All through history people have judged others’ lives to be meaningless on arbitrary grounds including: disability, race, gender and religion. The answer is not to kill the person but to give them the most meaningful life possible. Most disabled people do NOT view themselves as objects of pity.

7 Why shouldn’t I be able to die as and when I choose?

Those who believe that they ought to be able to choose euthanasia are saying that they ought to be able to involve others in their decision ... doctors, nurses, perhaps anyone who is able to give the lethal dose or assist the person to do so themselves.

This means the ‘choice’ of the person will move in to a wider arena — affecting many others in society, particularly those in the health profession. For the good of all people, there are some “choices” we have no right to exercise.

Palliative Care

Palliative Care is...

The care given to a terminally ill person facing the final stages of his or her life. This care is provided in the home, hospices and palliative care units attached to hospitals, and is tailored to meet the individual needs of the patient. It is a service delivered by a team of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, pastoral care workers, physiotherapists, chaplains and volunteers.

Palliative care demonstrates a profound respect for the emotional, physical, social and spiritual needs of the dying patient and his/her family and may be relevant over months or even years.

How can I prepare for a comfortable death for myself and loved ones?

Talk to your loved ones and doctor about these issues.

It is better to know how they feel about it now, rather than later. If you do not agree with your doctor’s approach, you should change doctors now. Find out which hospitals have palliative care units. These are sometimes called hospices for the dying.

Palliative care is for people who have any medical condition for which there is no current cure and whose health is expected to deteriorate progressively. It does not seek to lengthen or shorten their last days but to make them as comfortable and pain-free as possible. The emphasis is on comfort rather than cure. The patient has a say in all decisions about treatments.

Palliative Care is a positive initiative that enriches the person, those around them, and society in general.

As the British House of Lords select committee in 1994 said:

“Belief in the special worth of human life is at the heart of civilised society. It is the fundamental value on which all others are based and is the foundation of both law and medical practice. The intentional taking of human life is therefore the offence which society condemns most strongly.

“Society’s prohibition of intentional killing is the cornerstone of law and social relationships. It protects each of us impartially, embodying the belief that all are equal. We do not wish that protection to be diminished and we therefore recommend that there should be no change in the law to permit euthanasia”.