On Aug. 22, a paralyzed, but conscious
man died shortly after losing a lawsuit to end his life. According to a Yahoo news article,
Tony Nicklinson, a 58-year-old and native of Melksham, England, suffered a stroke during a
business trip in 2005 and since then has suffered from locked-in syndrome.
According to Medterms.com, locked-in syndrome is a state in which the patient
cannot control any muscles in the body except those in the eyes. The
syndrome is caused by a stroke, like Nicklinson’s, and doctors have yet to
find a cure. Due to the psychological and emotional pain of this syndrome, Nicklinson wanted doctors to end his life. However, in the eyes of the law, this is considered euthanasia.
Euthanasia is the practice of ending another person’s life who is
in chronic pain or has an incurable disease. Some countries in Europe allow citizens to end their lives in such situations. Here in
the United States, euthanasia is illegal in every state; however, some states do allow for
assisted suicide, in which doctors provide the means to end a patient’s life, via drugs or equipment. The central question in this debate is who has the right to decide if a person can end their life.
Those with a disease should be able to decide if they want to end
their life. In assisted suicide, the means to end a patient’s life must be administered by the patients themselves. Many doctors
feel uncomfortable taking a person’s life, even if the person has a terminal disease
and requests it. In this moral and ethical dilemma, assisted suicide takes
the pressure off doctors and leaves the decision solely to the patient. However, what if the patient, like Nicklinson, cannot administer the drug himself?
In those cases in which patients are unable to move, the
doctor should administer the drug. According to ProCon.org, one reason against euthanasia is that doctors
have made an oath to keep patients alive. Opponents also claim that euthanasia and
assisted suicide could someday lead to the murder of perfectly normal human beings based on economic standing or disability.
Yes, doctors should normally do everything in their power to
keep their patients alive. But how does a doctor, who has no cure for a disease, keep a patient alive when
they will eventually die? Sure, they can make patients comfortable and allow them to live
long enough to say goodbye, settle their affairs or cross that one last thing
off their bucket list. But eventually, they will die. So what’s
wrong with helping someone speed along that process in order to save them from the experience of having their once strong and healthy body
deteriorate slowly and painfully?
Personally, I hope I never have to experience watching
my hands slowly lose their strength and becoming unsteady or feeling my legs growing weaker by the day until I have to stay in bed because they can longer support me. Or
perhaps you would feel the disease slowly shut down every organ in your body
until you are painfully hanging onto life. I wouldn’t want this for anyone
nor would I want to watch someone I love go through this process. If a person wants a dignified death, then let them have it.
I find the claim that euthanasia and assisted suicide will
lead to murders of poor and disabled people highly dystopian. Today, both require the patient to be of sound mind and for a witness, such as a
family member, to be present when the patient gives their consent. Euthanasia
should only be administered when the patient gives consent. If someone wants to
live until the very end, of course they should be allowed. I’m sure the patients and their
families really appreciate what little time is left and treasure every
moment. But if someone is ready to go, let them go. It’s their natural
right to decide if and when they should end
their life. Life, liberty and property, right?
The English court should have granted Nicklinson his case,
even though he died a few days later. He had petitioned since January 2012,
according to Foxnews.com, and in that time he suffered through life as a
“nightmare.” If the court had
granted his wish, Nicklinson could have ended that nightmare sooner and he wouldn’t have had to be
heart-broken upon hearing that his request was denied. For Nicklinson and many others,
the decision to end their life should be their own and the law should not impede them.
Jeana Lawrence is a sophomore in journalism and English. Please send comments to [email protected].