Should people have the right to die? More specifically, should euthanasia - the deliberate killing by act or omission of a dependent person for his or her supposed benefit, be legalized? This subject has stirred worldwide controversy and sparked off massive debates on its legality, but so far, only a mere four countries - Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands view euthanasia as legal. While Singapore is not one of them, I believe that voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia should be made lawful for the terminally ill and for those who endure unbearable suffering.
Euthanasia should be made legal only for those terminally ill or suffering extreme pain, whether it be physical or psychological. Since the very basis of euthanasia was formed from the concept of killing for mercy, or allowing a person to be relieved of intractable suffering, it would be acceptable to allow for and ascertain that the euthanized belonged to the above categories, minimizing abuse of the euthanasia system by patients, physicians or relatives of the patients.
I believe voluntary euthanasia should be made legal for the terminally ill and for people who endure unbearable suffering. Voluntary euthanasia, characterized by a lucid patient expressing the want to die, provides a way of liberation from pain and a way of relief when a person's quality of life is low. This offers people classified in the above categories a choice to dictate their future, and a chance at a death with dignity they might not otherwise have. The case of fourteen year old Valentina Maureira is a prominent example. Born with cystic fibrosis, Maureira had to be fed via tubes and heavily relied on breathing machines. Plagued with such a chronic, incurable condition, Maureira filmed an emotional plea to the Chilean president to allow for "an injection that would make (her) sleep forever". With cystic fibrosis often resulting in patients developing generalized malnutrition, chronic respiratory infections, inflammation and severe lung infections, lifelong suffering would be inevitable. In such a case, euthanasia would provide relief from the low quality of life that would be experienced.
Non-voluntary euthanasia, or euthanasia in which the person is either unable to make a decision or cannot make their wishes known, should also be legalized for people belonging to aforementioned categories under strict medical and legal requirements. Even though those of certain groups like infants and comatose patients cannot make conscious decisions, they should also be given the right to freedom from pain stemming from debilitating conditions. With strict medical regulations and stringent checks to make sure consent is given of free will by authorized next-of-kin, the worry of deliberate killing is eased. In the case of the Groningen Protocol, the proposed guidelines require the infant in question to be eligible for all five of the following conditions:
" 1. The suffering must be so severe that the infant has no prospects for a future.
2. There is no possibility that the infant can be cured or alleviated of her affliction with medication or surgery.
3. The parents must give their consent.
4. A second opinion must be provided by an independent doctor who has not been involved with the child's treatment
5. The deliberate ending of life must be meticulously carried out with the emphasis on aftercare."
With such deliberate regulations in place, I feel that non-voluntary euthanasia can be conducted ethically even though the patients themselves are not making the conscious decision of euthanasia. Therefore, I believe that non-voluntary euthanasia should be legalized.
Opponents of euthanasia would argue that all forms of life are sacred, and life itself is a gift. Euthanasia would be equivalent to playing God, and destroying the sanctity of life.
While I agree that life is a gift, I believe also that "life" encompasses many values and abilities of human beings, including autonomy, mindfulness and self-consciousness. The terminally ill people, as well as those under extreme pain and suffering would be robbed of these crucial qualities - qualities that render people aware and make life itself worth the living.
It is undeniable that there exists a slippery slope in euthanasia, and certain unfavorable outcomes may surface in the face of legalization of euthanasia. Like any other policy, loopholes will be present in the law, and certain groups such as the elderly may be more vulnerable. Despite that, I believe that it is entirely possible to reduce these unwelcome situations by strict medical and legal regulations and laws. The right to end pain and suffering should be possessed by every individual. Euthanasia should be made legal only when an individual’s quality of life is no longer considered fit or worth living.