In life, it is important to ask and find an answer to the difficult and pressing questions. Questions that stem from human morality and the idea of free will. We’ve established, in the 21st century, that every human being has the right to live. Though we’re still not all the way there to ensuring this actually is enforced but it has become a universal right that most of us agree with. But what about death? Death is inevitable. That’s a fact none of us can ever disagree with and usually it helps if we come to terms with the idea as early as possible in our lives. For centuries humans have had a morbid fascination with the concept of death and of an afterlife or an inconsolable fear as we chase after ways to ensure that our actions in life render us immortal forever. Humans also have been the ones to “wield” the scepter of death, be it in the form of the countless wars we’ve engaged in for glory, sovereignty and country or even something as simple as putting down our beloved pets when they can no longer go on or present a threat to society. Should the act of dying be a choice that humans should be allowed to make for themselves? We usually view choice as a black and white scenario. Left or right. Right or wrong. Right? Those who stray away from the right path or the socially acceptable decision are labeled deviants, looking for a way to topple the natural order of things. We don’t like individuals upsetting the balance. There’s a moral code in place for a reason right? But we ultimately come back to the same question. If we have the right to live, should we also not have the right to die?
Euthanasia is a concept that we have delved into before and therefore we’re aware that it is not an entirely new or an entirely western concept but has deep ties with ancient civilizations who thought it better to embrace death if it was less dignified to live. Especially for the sick and disabled. Now, we’re not exactly endorsing ancient beliefs because let’s face it, they’re ancient and archaic for a reason.
In Greece, individuals with a terminal or incurable illness were given poisonous substances because as Plato put it, “Mentally and physically ill persons should be left to death; they do not have the right to live.” In India, the incurable were drowned in the river Ganges as a “mercy killing,” and ancient Scottish folklore that spoke of faeries and changelings led to many a weak or sickly child being left out in the formidable cold all night.
In the modern world, where easy access to freedom of speech and freedom of choice are deemed the tenants of civilized society, the medical process of helping a patient “take” their own lives has become some what of a moral quandary. The opposition stems from the religious belief of many organized religions that leave the decision of life and death to God and God alone. There are other critics as well who deem it an unethical and a potential tool to end lives of people that might not actually have wanted it. For example patients in a vegetative state who are unable to decide for themselves. It might also lead us down that dark path of people getting to decide who deserves to live or not. It could wreak havoc on a society’s justice and criminal system for example.
However, those who support the act state that it is just as inhumane to allow patients with no cure and no hope for recovery to live the rest of their existence in perpetual pain and agony. What’s more is that catatonic or terminally ill patients are left in the worse of conditions and it becomes a medical conundrum to lend them limited resources while others wait for the same opportunity. On the whole, most countries in the world are not too keen on the debate just yet. Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium are the only three nations where euthanasia is legal, although some European nations allow passive euthanasia and assisted suicide in some capacity.
Over here in our part of the world, the debate quite frankly has not yet started and it may be a long while before we ever begin. While it is true that life is a beautiful thing that should be cherished and appreciated while it lasts, for some, so is the choice of what to do while we’re alive.