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Euthanasia: legal or illegal  

2006-05-22 17:14:09|  分类: 文化随笔 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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       Euthanasia, or doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill patients, has been stirring up worldwide debate in recent 20 years. In 1983, A Dutchman Cees van Wendel Joode, who had suffered a long time serious ill, terminated his life with the help of his doctor Wilfred van Oijen. The doctor gave him a final, lethal injection, and the poor old man passed away peacefully. The whole procedure was filmed and shown on television in the Netherlands and then broadcasted by more than 20 countries. Each time it was shown, it started a nationwide debate on this subject. Cases of euthanasia have been reported in many countries and some doctors have even been accused of murder. For or against? It is a dilemma for everyone when he faces this issue.

       It has been argued that it is cruel to deprive one’s life in this way. Nobody has the right to take the life of another person even if it is requested by the patient himself. True, everyone in modern society has the sacred right not to be killed without the pronounce judgment of the count. However, euthanasia is not murder; it is the patient’s wish under an extremely specified circumstance, not enforced by others. If a person were affected with a serious disease, and the conditions were rapidly and inevitably deteriorating, without any hope of recovery, and, the patient himself requests to end his suffering life journey, isn’t it crueler to maintain his pain than to end his life? In that case, life has become merely a symbol, a burden and agony while death may become a friend. A famous Chinese writer, Ba Jin, who has just celebrated his 100 year birthday, has requested many times to terminate his life, because he thinks that he has experienced all human joys and sorrows and finished his duty in human society – he wrote so many excellent novels, essays; and now he is confined to a bed and can do nothing. Life for him is meaningless but pain. He can no longer write nor speak. He cannot walk out to breathe fresh air. He thinks it’s the high time to stop and have a long rest.

       It could also be argued that euthanasia may cause some legal problems. Some worry that if euthanasia were permitted, it would be difficult to identify whether it is a case of euthanasia or murder. A person would be legally murdered by the name of euthanasia. However, murder and euthanasia are two different concepts which are not difficult to distinguish. Euthanasia has its strict limits and specified conditions. For example, the patient’s repeated and formal request, medical certificate by authoritative hospitals and doctors, enough witnesses, notarization, etc. If doctor-assisted suicide becomes a legal option, the legislative agency needs to make a detailed guideline and procedure to ensure the euthanasia not to be abused. The Dutch parliament demands that euthanasia must be under strict guidelines that the patient is experiencing extreme suffering, that there is no chance of a cure, and that the patient had made repeated requests for euthanasia. Additionally, a second doctor must confirm that these criteria have been met and the death must be reported to the police department. Otherwise the doctor carrying out euthanasia would be sentenced. In fact, euthanasia is now legally permitted in the Netherlands. There is no report that euthanasia has been abused in the Netherlands until now.

       Some arguments against euthanasia say that the whole society must show the great respect to life and devoted humanistic care on the dying old people. Modern society has developed perfect social security system. In many countries, hospice system has been established, which can help the old people finish their last miles of life journey happily and quietly. But the problem is not that the terminally ill patients are lack of humanistic care, but that anyone or anything else can relieve their suffering and helplessness. People usually pay much attention to the length and ignore the quality of life. In my opinion, as an important part of human rights, one has the right to say “no” to the meaningless and painful life. Euthanasia is the true respect and humanistic care for life. 

       In conclusion, euthanasia is a feasible choice for the terminally ill patients. Legislative agency should take this issue into serious consideration and try to set up a workable and restrict law as the guideline as soon as possible.

(This  paper was written two years ago.)

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