Can Human Euthanasia Be Justified?

“Put him out of his misery” was a phrase used long ago to end someone’s terminal illness and suffering. The debate about suffering and life has always been viral news, but can human euthanasia be justified?  

Today, people are living longer with medical breakthroughs and holistic treatments.  As a result, life expectancy is longer for most people than in years past. But there is still suffering and pain. 

Advocates of euthanasia are driven mainly by negative feelings toward tragedies of the human condition, such as chronic pain, terminal illness, and age complications. Human suffering is something most people steer away from because it's just too physically and mentally painful. These feelings sometimes dictate a confident "attitude," derived from a moral philosophical theory called boo-hurrah theory.

Consider one man's struggle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS. Petta is 78 years old and is in the advanced stages of the disease. Quickly digressing in health, he has lost the ability to move and needs to be cared for at all times. Not in any significant pain, he feels his body has died, and the only thing left is his mind, which is coherent. Clive Gifford articulates the human condition of dying slowly in his article, World Issues: Euthanasia: the Story of Petta. Here, Petta is quoted that he wants someone to come and kill him because his current physical state will not allow him to do it himself. “My condition has deteriorated so much that I am now past the point where I can take my own life.” He adds, “While I have any strength left at all, I am trying to talk to the members of my family about someone taking my life.” This attitude of seeking deliverance from a hopeless illness is widely accepted by partisans of euthanasia. The language of feelings versus facts is evident, hence emotivism at its best. The illness tormenting Petta is about health, but he also conveys a desire to die and convinces others about the "condition," which is dire. 

Is it right, or is it wrong? For Petta, it's acceptable, and others should respect his wish to die. 

In the same way, a desperate reach by proponents for euthanasia holds physicians responsible for assisting dying patients based on the oath physicians take to relieve suffering. In Death and Dying: Opposing Viewpoints by Greenhaven Press, Peter Rogatz says that people should never seek suicide or a means to end their lives. He adds some people cannot be relieved by medical treatment and should be considered for assistance in dying. “…there are some patients who experience terrible suffering that cannot be relieved by any of the therapeutic or palliative techniques that medicine and nursing have to offer... if patients seek such help, it is cruel to leave them to fend for themselves, weighing options that are both traumatic and uncertain, when humane assistance could be made available." A plausible assumption is that most doctors would agree with Rogatz, and fewer doctors would be hesitant to assist patients who want to die because of a malpractice suit or their religious affiliations. 

Some with terminal illnesses have a firm conviction about their end-of-life decisions, which can be traced to an ethical egoist perspective. This perspective states that if each person looks after his or her own interests, it is more likely that everyone involved will be better off. For example, in his article, Advance Directives Enable Dying Patients to Control Treatment David Kessler states, “Without advance directives, you may find your control over the circumstances of your death slipping away from you.” Kessler implies that people are the enablers of making their end-of-life care wishes known and that the latter can prevent some unwanted heroic measure to prolong life

Is it right or wrong?  Their convictions seem warranted for those who want control over their end of days. 

Human Euthanasia and control over suffering are unsolvable, and there is a right to life. It's egotistical if we end a person’s life based on what they want. Providing voluntary assisted dying for those who suffer is utilitarian.  I know because I made a decision to end someone's life. 

I am an only child and witnessed my mother's suffering for 30 years.  With dementia, loss of sight, and deteriorating brain functions, my mother was basically comatose.  During her declining years, I cared for Mom in every way to lessen her distress.  But it was not enough.  Faced with a terrifying decision, I set out to end her suffering with medical advisors forecasting the next steps.  I never thought the decision would be entangled with excruciating confusion, hurt, sadness, and regret.  After her death, I, too, thought about dying.  The guilt was too uncomfortable. 

But my faith in the Holy Trinity prevailed. I surrendered my pain to God, gave my sadness to Jesus Christ, and asked the Holy Spirit for strength to reconcile. And persevering in living up to what the Trinitarian God stands for cannot be done alone. With direct intervention from my wife, close parishioners, and a Pastor, I was encouraged to live and inspired to learn about suffering.  

Through many pastoral sessions, I matured with the subject.  One profound statement that I remember during these challenging times was, "Your mother's suffering was not to be a permanent part of her life, but part of the pilgrimage towards the house of the Father."  Contemplating suffering through Christology instead of specific philosophical and secular definitions defined life and death with suffering.  Apart from knowing the suffering of Jesus Christ, I can't know the life-giving opportunity in suffering.  As a result, my mother's illness indirectly fused our relationship lovingly, which probably would have never taken place.  Today, this writer values the times we suffered together. 

"Life is suffering, yes. But in the life to come, there awaits eternal bliss that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived of. For that reason, the Christian life is not marred by misery. It shines with joyful expectation.                                                                                                                                                                     -Blaise Pascal, 1662


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