Legal euthanasia - humane death, or murder?

A jolly topic for the holiday season.
The Netherlands is in the process of legalizing doctor-assisted suicide for terminal patients in specific circumstances. The practice has actually been tolerated there for many years.
In most countries, people are kept alive by medicine as long as possible, even when they have no hope of regaining any quality of life, and are often in great pain. During this time, their life-savings may be consumed by doctors’ fees, sometimes the surviving relatives are even left in debt.

Is it more humane and dignified for a patient to be allowed to choose their own time to die? How serious is the risk of relatives killing off the patient to inherit the money? Should society continue to keep patients alive by all means possible regardless of the circumstances? What does your particular deity think about the whole thing?

The Netherlands, like most of Europe, have socialized medicine and thus the economic problems are out of the equation - and I, for one, believe it has to be that way.

Humane & dignified ? I guess so. As long as it’s only done on the patient’s expressed request, only available for terminal patients and there are checks & balances built in to make sure that the patient truly wishes to die. Proper pain treatment has to be the default solution, always.

But if I were ever diagnosed with something painful & incurable, I’d try my level best to aquire the option to stamp my own ticket.

I can’t comment on the religious side, except to say that any deity that would blame people for escaping useless pain and indignity can go take a walk 'till his hat floats.

S. Norman

IMO yes, as long as it has been ascertained beyond all doubt that the patient has a terminal illness without hope of recovery. I know that if I ever become stricken with any terminal disease I would want to take the decision into my own hands. To my mind there is no point at all in living for an extra month if, duringthat month, my quality of life is going to be one long nightmare of pain ending in an undignified death. If a patient has specified with absolute certainty that he wants to die then I don’t see ho w granting him his final wish would be inhumane. It is far more inhumane to let him suffer.

Not much of a debate yet - we all seem to agree. I would underscore the assertion that some serious pain medication would have to preface it, if for no other reason than that the person has to be in a state of sound mind to make the decision, and a person in a lot of suffering is not sane.

Which brings up a nasty point: Who decides, if the patient can’t? Suppose the level of analgesic necessary to relieve their pain is going to make them unconscious for the rest of their lives - who decides? The family? Hmmm, are they beneficiaries? The doctor? Would he be liable if he did?

But if a sane person wants to check out, it’s their right.

I would point out that socialized medicine does not mean that there are no economic factors at play. Since there is a healthcare budget that money could be either spent on trying to prolong the life of a sick person or trying to help someone with a more hopeful prognosis.
Here is an article with some extreme examples of people who have been euthanized, including an anorexic, a grieving mother, and a baby.

Still not much debate from this corner.


No more so than currently, provided it is indeed the patient making the decision. I cannot accept anyone else making the decision for the patient.

Absolutely not. If the patient can clearly and lucidly communicate a desire to end his or her life, “society” can bugger right off.

What Spiny Norman ([sub]Dinsdale![/sub]) said. Unless I start worshipping Kali or Loki or Tiamat, I wouldn’t have a God who condones needless pain. ('Course, physical pain might be able to lead someone down the eightfold path . . .)

Another agreement from me. We are adults and are allowed to make our own decisions, so we should be able to choose when we die. There should be a few limits, but if someone really wants to die, we shouldn’t try to stop them. To quote someone whose name escapes me at the moment, “No one gets off of here alive. How do you want to go?” It’s our choice in the end, isn’t it?

I have to admit that I’m surprised by all the positive reactions. When I posted this question, I was expecting a heated debate with a lot of negative views as well. Either the debate so far represents an unbalanced viewpoint, or the majority supports self-determination, at least in concept. Where are all the biblical quotations, I ask myself?

If someone contracts a nasty incurable disorder that reduces his/her quality of life to shit, and expresses a desire to die peacefully, and you force that person to continue living, you are guilty of torture.

I think the point is more in terms of economic factors w/ regard to the individuals. The idea being that they are not going to be bleeding off the children’s inheritance in doctor’s bills if they’re covered by socialized medicine.

it seems completely self-evident to me. Of COURSE people should be permitted to determine the time and manner of their own death.

I tell ya, it would have been easier on my familty and my sister if we could have helped her along, instead of having her die slowly from dehydration after her stroke. It would have been kinder and quicker to simply bump up the morphine to “See ya!” levels.

who watched her sister die.

Well we all agree. But I guess none of us live in Michigan. Or any of the other states where physician-assisted suicide is illegal.

Actually, physician-assisted suicide is more common than you think, and people are doing it legally. There are several scenarios where it happens. From my experience there are two pretty common scenarios:

  1. Starting or upping morphine for pain control, knowing good and well that the drug will hasten death, sometimes within an hour. (Morphine suppresses breathing.)

  2. The “covert conversation” that can happen between doctor and patient where the pt. makes his/her wishes known. The doctor then prescribes pain medication with the admonition “Now be careful how much you take of this, X number of pills taken all at once would kill you (wink wink),”

I believe that both of the above scenarios are considered “passive euthanasia” though, and the real controversy is with “active euthanasia”.

I’ve worked in nursing homes for years so you won’t hear me say a word against either passive or active euthanasia. I am also presuming that we are talking about people that are able to make the decision. But…

What about people that are in vegetative states and have no hope of returning to anything near normal? They may live for years that way. They can’t tell you that they want to die. Would it be ok for a family member or doctor to say enough is enough and euthanize a person in that condition? Some passive euthanasia can be used, like not putting in a feeding tube (the person dehydrates and starves to death), but would it be ok to actively cause their death by giving them a lethal injection?

No way I am supporting euthenasia. Let’s just say that I experienced at a minimum three times the pain, mental and physical and emotional, than a person should endure in one lifetime. I am frankly quite pissed off that people with a scintilla of the problems that I had and currently have want to end it all.

This is my will-to-live:

I, capacitor, being of sound mind and body, request that, when I wind up in an incapacitated state, for all medical and support personnel that surround me to try the impossible if need be to restore me to relative good health. Do not accept any requests from any relative to “pull the plug”. Make all efforts to fight for my life, as much as I have struggled for my life, and will continue to struggle.

In my mind, euthanasia and assisted suicide are very different things.

capacitor, what you have said is that you do not support euthanasia for you.

Do you support the right of another person to die if they wish it?

Yeah, those weak bastards! I toughed it out, why can’t they, the fuckers? :rolleyes:

The problem assumes that the person really wishes to die, as opposed of being unduly influenced by the nagging relatives who want that old or crippled person to be dead already, or doctors who want another “mercy killing” notch on his belt. It turns out in the Nehterlands that it is too often the case.

And yes, andros, why not? Okay, I don’t like the prospect of dying too much, if at all. But I don’t want to live in a society where when you feel that there is no hope, that there are institutions that all too ready and too fast agree with you and want to push you along to the afterlife.

The thing that frosts me about this whole debate is the part that refers to the suffering of the family. If it’s so tough on them, maybe THEY should jump off a building. I don’t believe you ought to kill a guy, but I can surely understand giving him the wherewithall to do it himself. You ought to have the right to do yourself in, but don’t ask me to actually do it to you.