Right to die ?

UTV carries a report, based on a story in the Irish Times, that an Irishman in his thirties, left severely handicapped after an accident, has flown to Switzerland with his family where Dignitas, a charity, helped with an assisted suicide. This is, like abortion, another difficult issue. How do contributors feel about this story and the issues it raises ?

  • maca

    I’m all for it. Taking the life of an unborn child is one thing but taking your own life when you have no chance of a normal life is something entirely different.
    The Schiavo case in the US is a good example, 15 years severely brain damaged, no chance for a decent life.
    Should the worst ever happen to me I hope to go the same way.

  • Davros

    Should it be allowed in Ireland and the UK then ?
    I think so. Otherwise we have a situation not unlike that with abortion where “out of sight, out of mind” and while abortion on demand couldn’t be tolerated here we turn a blind eye to those going across the water.

  • maca

    I really don’t like comparing it to abortion, I think they are two totally different issues. Yes, I think we should allow it here, in the UK too if you want. Abortion? Still no. 😉

  • mucher

    I agree, I would rather be dead than lingering in a hospital bed unable to fo anything for myself. I actually cannot understand how so-called religious people are so opposed to it. Surely if you believe in the afterlife you would want to go there as soon as possible? Look at the Pope and how he clings to life, surely he should be looking forward to death?

  • Davros

    The only comparison is in respect of the travelling.
    I agree with you on abortion.

  • Jacko

    Yes, at that stage a little dignity is all you have left.

    BTW, the subject is not related in any way to abortion.

  • Alan McDonald

    As an American, I am offended by the politicization of this issue by our Republican party. There has even been a backlash (based on opinion polls) against the politicians. This is a private, family issue that should not be dragged into the public sector.

  • George

    Can’t compare this with the Shiavo case Maca.

    There is no evidence that Terri Shiavo wants to die and there is certainly no evidence that she wants to die by forced starvation and dehydration.

    Ambrose,
    you also can’t link this with abortion where the saving the life of the unborn is dependent on imposing this decision on the mother, who may not have consented to the sexual intercourse that led to the conception, whose life may be endangered by continuing the pregnancy etc.

    Saving the life of Terri Shiavo is a much simpler issue.

    George – no linkage intended. I was pointing out that both issues are emotive and difficult. A.U.

  • maca

    George
    I have read that Shiavo previously expressed her to her husband that she would prefer to die in such a situation.

    “there is certainly no evidence that she wants to die by forced starvation and dehydration”

    What does it matter what way she goes? She feels no pain or hunger so letting her pass gently seems to be a nice way to me.

    “who may not have consented to the sexual intercourse that led to the conception, whose life may be endangered by continuing the pregnancy etc.”

    You’re picking just one specific scenario there George.

  • Whatabout

    The problem I have this type of issue is “Where do we stop?”. The thin end of the wedge started years ago when abortion was generally approved. Is this the direction we should go?

    I’m pro-life in all these issues – abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia – and consider extenuating circumstances in some cases may make abortion ‘necessary’. Are we interfering with one of our hard won Human Rights for all people – the right to life – in this case and others?

  • Alan McDonald

    George,

    My comment was also about the Schiavo case. For a recent (USA) Republican rant on the issue, read The Terri Schiavo Debate is Far, Far From Over. There the writer takes aim at Democrats even though the judge in the state case is a Republican. The only reason the Republican-controlled Congress passed a special law in the middle of the night to move it to federal courts was to try to pin the blame on Clinton appointees.

  • maca

    Whatabout
    If a person expresses their wishes that they no longer wish to live in the misery of being disabled/incapacitated shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t it be your own choice rather than the States choice?
    In a lot of these cases we’re talking about people who have a mind or body which simply does not work and has little or no chance of ever working again. Would you confine these people to a life of torture? Or would you let them end their pain and suffering?

  • Alan McDonald

    So, what is the state’s interest in the preservation of life and does it transcend the wishes of the individual? The hard cases are the ones where the individual cannot speak and his/her wishes must be interpreted by a “next best individual.” The courts in Florida have determined that the next best person is Terri Schiavo’s husband. This ruling was required because her parents challenged the husband’s standing. Normally, this decision is made privately within the family; and, according to one account I read, this occurs 1,000 times a day in America.

  • George

    maca,
    there is no evidence that she wants to die. Her husband saying now that she always wanted to die 15 years after the fact doesn’t warrant stopping feeding her now and certainly doesnt constitute evidence of what Terri Shiavo wants.

    I also believe there is a huge difference between witholding medical treatment which may prolong a terminally ill person’s life and denying a person food and water to the point of death.

    Terri Shiavo is not being kept artificially alive and has parents who want to look after her. There is no written or legal testament to her wishes.

    The point I was making on abortion is that the physical welfare of more than one human being (if you take the unborn as human beings) has to be taken into account.

    Ambrose,
    fair enough.

    Alan,
    I’m not well enough informed on the inner machinations of American politics to comment on why Congress got involved but thanks for the link. Maybe soon I will.

  • Whatabout

    Maca,
    If someone is mentally ill / depressed enough to take their own life should they be allowed to do it? What someone who is pysically incapacitated lacks is the ability to carry out the suicide act, hence, they ask someone else to do it.

    I asked originally, “Where do we stop?” One could also ask, “Where do we start?” In mental institutions?

  • maca

    Whatabout
    Start by letting people make their own decisions where they are able to.

    George
    “there is no evidence that she wants to die.”

    There’s no evidence she wants to remain a vegetable. She can’t think or feel, her husband is best placed, in my opinion, to speak for her.

    “Terri Shiavo is not being kept artificially alive”

    She needs feeding tubes to keep her alive, i’d call that “being kept artificially alive”.

    It’s definitly a difficult case though.

    “The point I was making on abortion is that the physical welfare of more than one human being (if you take the unborn as human beings) has to be taken into account.”

    Of course it does but I think you are looking at a specific case, in the majourity of cases there is little risk to either mother or child.

  • Young Irelander

    maca

    “She can’t think or feel, her husband is best placed, in my opinion, to speak for her.”

    Her husband is involved in another relationship with a woman and refuses to divorce her even though her parents want to keep her alive.I posted on this issue myself earlier today and I found a very well-writen article by Ronan Mullen in the Irish Examiner which can be read here.His article is well worth a look.

  • Alan McDonald

    I take it from the comments that the general answer to the question is: No, there is no right to die. I also see that all of the arguments are based on morality or philosophy or religion. This still does not answer the question of what the state should do (or should not do) in these situations. It also does not answer the question of what does the person do who wants to take end their life but can’t afford to go to Switzerland.

  • maca

    YI
    I didn’t think much of the article, i don’t see what’s “evil” in this, but each to his/her own.
    Personally, as i’ve said, if the worst comes to worst I hope the decision is mine.

  • Young Irelander

    maca,

    I think his point was that the manner in which it is happening is evil.My view is that if a person is terminally ill and wants to die then they deserve the right to die with dignity.I see no dignity for Terri Schiavo or her family in this situation, though.

  • Whatabout

    I believe that life is precious. Someone who has a terminal illness should not be given the chance to end their own life. It would, in my opinion, be a retrograde step.

    We used to imprison the mentally ill – indeed some where imprisoned by other family members for sake of convenience. People often died in great agony from terminal disease. I thought we’d moved on from that. We do have relatively good pain controlling drugs available now.

    To give someone the absolute right to kill themselves when they decide is immoral. It could be argued that to allow them to suffer when they know they are going to die is also immoral. I think it’s the easy way out to agree to euthanasia, whether by your own or another’s hand.

    If we were to decide to allow this you would agree we would need an independent arbitrator to hear each case – the courts?

  • Davros

    We do have relatively good pain controlling drugs available now.

    There’s more to this than merely pain W.

  • George

    Maca,
    feeding someone who can’t feed themselves is not keeping somebody artificially alive. There are millions of infants and eldery in the same position.

    Whatabout,
    “We do have relatively good pain controlling drugs available now.”

    Believe it or not, those suffering can’t stay in a morphine haze 24 hours a day. I think you underestimate the unbelievable pain and suffering serious illness can cause.

    As for preventing those terminally ill from ending their lives if they want, I don’t agree society should. If someone of sound mind and body who is suffering and has no chance of survival wants to end it they should be allowed and people should be allowed help them.

    The days of stigma surrounding suicide, assisted or otherwise, are over in my view.

    Terry Schiavo is different. We only have her husband’s word 15 years later that she always wanted to die, she is not terminally ill and is not suffering (as far as I know).

  • maca

    Whatabout
    “If we were to decide to allow this you would agree we would need an independent arbitrator to hear each case – the courts?”

    I’m not talking about a free for all, there is a need for control. But perhaps it could be left to a medical panel for example.

    “We do have relatively good pain controlling drugs available now.”

    Drugs won’t stop all physical pain. And what about mental pain? And the pain and suffering of their families?

  • Anonymous

    George
    “There are millions of infants and eldery in the same position.”

    With feeding tubes in their stomachs?

  • George

    Maca,
    feeding someone is not keeping them artificially alive, regardless of whether you stick a spoon in their mouth, nourish them intravenously or use a tube.

    I think Terri Schiavo was fed via a tube in her neck not stomach. By that logic, smokers who have a tracheotomy can also be deemed surplus to requirements.

    Her parents say Terri Schiavo can be fed orally, although no swallowing test has been carried out since 1993, but the authorities have refused it.

  • Davros

    Should the hunger-strikers have been force-fed then George ? Or should we have used the cat and mouse act ?

  • Whatabout

    Thanks for the debate on this.

    I don’t think we can go through this life without feeling pain. Families and friends of the terminally ill do suffer. Some of them would also suffer if an ill relative decided to commit suicide. We should expect this pain and deal with it. The one sure thing in life is that we’re all going to die – I don’t think we should decide when.

    To summarise questions in my previous posts, how can we justify allowing euthanasia – voluntary or otherwise? Would it impact negatively on society? We have an alarming rate of suicides among young adults, especially males. Do we not need to show more care for, and a better example to, them?

  • Davros

    The family in this case travelled with the man Whatabout.

  • maca

    George
    “By that logic, smokers who have a tracheotomy can also be deemed surplus to requirements.”

    Would those smokers also be severely brain damaged with no chance of recovery?

    Whatabout
    “Some of them would also suffer if an ill relative decided to commit suicide”

    I don’t think so. It might actually bring an end to their pain knowing that their loved one is finally at peace.

    “how can we justify allowing euthanasia – voluntary or otherwise?”

    It’s giving people the choice to end their tremendous suffering. Letting them have their peace. It’s not hard to justify it (IMHO)

    “Would it impact negatively on society?”
    I don’t see how.

    “We have an alarming rate of suicides among young adults, especially males. Do we not need to show more care for, and a better example to, them?”

    That’s a totally different issue.
    It’s impossible for me to even imagine how a potentially suicidal person views the issue of euthanasia or how legalising euthanasia would impact on them. I’m not sure it would make much difference as I believe we’re talking about a small number of euthanasia cases per year and the reasons for euthanasia are pretty obvious.
    Yes the issue of suicides needs to be tackled, but so does the suffering of disabled or terminally ill people.

  • Davros
  • Alan McDonald

    Davros,

    Thanks for the link to “Living will is the best revenge.” It summed up my thoughts on the loathsome pliticians surrounding the Terri Schiavo case.

  • Whatabout

    Maca,

    We all know this is a big subject which no society has so far tackled head-on. While some allow euthanasia, I don’t think any encourage it.

    My point in bringing the problem of suicide amongst younger people in is that if people who consider their situation hopeless (the terminally ill who are in extreme pain) are permitted the right to end their life, then where do we draw the line? If you or I decide our life is ‘not worth living’ should we permitted the same right?

    If a person has an extremely disabling accident, should they also be permitted to take their own life if they feel like it? I’d imagine if I was suddenly disabled I may feel like doing that, but should I be allowed to? My attitude may be very different longer after the event – I may be able to cope better than I thought.

    And finally, to expand on “Some of them would also suffer if an ill relative decided to commit suicide.” from my earlier post – some family members, like me, may be totally opposed to ending a terminally ill relatives life. To stand by and be forced to permit it or be powerless to stop it would undoubtedly cause them great anguish.

  • maca

    Whatabout
    I think one of the key things is peoples chance to live a bearable life.
    With young people committing suicide there is always the chance they can get help and turn things around even if they don’t think they can at the time. Their life can change, there is that chance.
    What about the person who is slowly dying and in agony with zero chance of recovery, or what about the people who might be either brain dead or seriously disabled, again with no chance of recovery? These are the people I think should be given a way out, a way to end their suffering.

    “some family members, like me, may be totally opposed to ending a terminally ill relatives life”

    Yes a fair point. But who do you put first, the person who is oppossed to eithanasia or the person who is actually suffering? If a family member of yours was disabled and suffering greatly for years on end, perhaps brain damaged, perhaps paralyzed and they wanted to end their suffering, who should come first, you because you’re against it or your family member who may be living an unbearable life? My point is it should be their decision because they are the ones who have to live in agony.

    That’s my opinion anyway. 😉