A radio commentator was talking this morning about a program he’d watched the night before. A ninety two year old woman wanted to be euthanized. That’s some euphemism, isn’t it? What this fellow human being means is that she wants another fellow human being to take her life.
She was old, it’s true, but she didn’t have a debilitating disease, she was just anticipating that at her age something was bound to come along, like a stroke, for example, that might take the decision of life or death out of her hands.
Funny but when we talk about legalised death we are usually speaking for (or against) the death penalty for criminals. I see legalised death as an extension of euthanasia, except for those being put down here are innocent human beings who find themselves in an awful situation at the very end of their lives. We get the same buzz words every time: ‘the right to decide for myself’ seems to be the most popular, and not wanting to be a burden on the family is another. Why on earth not, I ask? What is family for, after all, if it’s not to take up the slack? We have parents caring for the children and children returning the favour in their turn; the wife caring for the husband and him looking after her when she needs help.
And as I was listening to talkback radio, the usual anecdotes came through, many of them from people who had lost loved ones had watched them die in pain and were helpless to do anything about it. You listen to those stories and can’t help but be touched by them. They should be allowed to die if life is so unbearable. But what I am saying is that in the end other people would be making the decisions and it wouldn’t necessarily be for humanitarian reasons.
Euthanasia is an emotional yet unresolved topic. But I think we’re coming closer. I sense that people power is at play pushing harder to get the right to die to be enshrined in law. But I believe that when people power wins it will have lost. Letting go is already happening in an unspoken, open secret way. This is only anecdotal, but I’ve heard that a palliative care patient lives in that setting for an average of three and a half days. There are plugs pulled and there is medication withdrawn. Sometimes the family is consulted, other times it is not.
What worries me is that once it’s all legal, the bean counters and politicians will slowly but surely take away – not the right to die, but the right to live every minute that’s owing to a person. The justifications will slowly but surely creep in and chip away at people’s real rights. The patient’s illness is terminal anyhow, why bother wasting resources on people who could die any time? Don’t be selfish, those people will say, medical expenses are horrendous and you’ve lived your life. Then the bean counters will rid themselves of the disabled. Perhaps in an overcrowded world 60 might become the new ninety. instead of retiring you can euthanase. (Read Harry Harrison’s ‘Make Room, Make Room.’)
‘Beware what you wish for’, is an old saying, ‘you might just get what you want.’ Don’t let your emotions rule you. Once those bills are through,it will be like Pandora’s box, you are never going to stuff them back in.