Source: Ghana| Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane
Date: 18th-june-2015 Time: 1:32:16 pm
“I felt faint. Sweat dripped all over my body. My head pounded like a bass drum. I rushed to the hospital. My Erythrocyte Sedimentation rate (ESR) was about thirty times the normal rate. As for my haemoglobin level, it was at 2.0. The biopsy and the blood tests revealed cancer. I was told this cancer (which was living in my blood) could only be managed by chemotherapy.
I had heard numerous stories of how painful this procedure was. It meant that I would lose all my hair as well; the hair that I had painstakingly grown for years. At that point, several thoughts kept rushing through my mind – anger, pain, hopelessness. It was a mixed feeling.”
If this voice were mine, what would I do? If I were caught in the net of terminal illness, where would I run? If palliative care were my only option, which road would I take? Would it be life or death?
This brings to mind the subject of “Euthanasia”. If death’s hands are icy enough to grip, then why assist it? In this article, I will tell you why it is sometimes necessary ; why euthanasia still remains an option for many on their death beds. Let us begin with some background information on euthanasia.
First of all, euthanasia is a combination of two Greek words “eu” which means “good” and “thanatos” which means “death”. Juxtaposing these two words, euthanasia can be defined as the act of permitting the death of ill or injured people due to certain reasons (usually reasons of mercy).
There are different categories of euthanasia.
Voluntary euthanasia (Physician Assisted Suicide) involves ending a person’s life in a painless manner.
Non-voluntary euthanasia (mercy killing) is performed when the patient is not able to provide informed consent due to the patient being in a comatose state or in the case of incapacitated young children. This was practiced in Ancient Greece as a form of eugenics.
Other groupings of euthanasia include passive and active euthanasia. Passive euthanasia involves either withholding common treatments that are essential for the survival of the patient or taking the patient off the life-support machine. Active euthanasia involves the use of lethal substances to kill the patient.
Certain countries like the United States of America (Oregon and Washington), some parts of Mexico, Colombia and Japan practise it. In Australia, euthanasia was once legal but it is currently illegal. The ‘legal status’ of euthanasia in Africa is not known ; therefore euthanasia is deemed illegal in Africa.
There have been several debates on euthanasia. Two of these debates are very popular – the Slippery Slope debate and the Len Doyal Argument.
In the Slippery Slope debate, it was argued that if voluntary euthanasia is allowed to occur, all the other forms of euthanasia that are deemed illegal would eventually follow suit. This argument was supported by David Enoch, a professor of philosophy and law at Hebrew University.
The Len Doyal Argument was advocating for the legalization of active euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. This is what Len Doyal stated: “ If death is in a patient’s best interest then death constitutes a moral good.”
There are also several demerits of euthanasia aside all these debates.
Euthanasia is associated with suicide and murder. It is stated in Section 57, Act 29 (1960) of Ghana’s constitution that : “A person who abets the commission of suicide commits a first degree felony whether or not the suicide is actually committed.”
This implies that anybody who is involved in this practise can be penalized.
People also believe that euthanasia is against certain moral and religious views. They claim that a higher being (God) was the one who gave that person life, therefore that life should not be taken away through any other process which is not natural.
Dr. Leon Rass, Chairman of the President’s council on Bioethics, stated in his article Why Doctors Must not Kill: “Nor shall any man’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to assisting suicide. They are inheritors of a valuable profession.” This statements aim at supporting the claim that practicing euthanasia would eventually make patients lose their trust for doctors.
People also raise the point that the practice of euthanasia is against the Hippocratic Oath, the section of the oath that states that: “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked”.
Some people also believe that in most cases of patients with terminal illnesses, there is (at least) a certain chance of survival. This means that there is no hundred percent guarantee that the patient would die.
I do not dispute all these concerns that have been raised against euthanasia. However, I would like us to go back to the picturesque description of that individual diagnosed with cancer. I have two tangible reasons why euthanasia should be the option in such circumstances.
Euthanasia promotes economic growth in the sense that it saves government and families the cost of catering for terminally ill patients. Even though there is a certain chance of survival, these chances are normally too slim.
The patient eventually dies in most cases. Some families are burdened with huge hospital bills as a result of the life-support machines which are used to keep patients alive. Some patients end up staying in coma for years and most of them eventually die.
Even those who survive most become vegetables and are of no use to humanity. Families are left with the life-long burden of footing the bills after the death of these patients.
On the other hand, practicing euthanasia would save all the money used in powering these life-support machines. This money could be invested in something equally beneficial.
Finally, euthanasia serves as a relief to patients suffering from prolonged terminal illnesses that are accompanied by excruciating pain. If you had the feeling that you were being pricked by a thousand knives, you bleed profusely from any opening of the body or simply put – you experience a combination of the most terrible symptoms of all diseases, would you blame the voice that says: “I choose to die”?