In 2014, a lot of debate was happening around the Brittany Maynard case in the US. Brittany Maynard was a 29-year old women diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She decided to end her own life “when the time seemed right.” Maynard was also an advocate for the legalization of aid in dying.
In the weeks prior to her death, she was the face of the debate in the right-to-die in the US. Over 16 million went over to People.com to read about her story. For Arthur Caplan of New York University’s Division of Medical Ethics, Maynard being “young, vivacious, attractive … and a very different kind of person” from the usual patients seeking physician-assisted dying, she “changed the optics of the debate and got people in her generation interested in the issue.”
While Maynard received praise for her choice, some terminally ill patients such as Kara Tippetts and Maggie Karner both sent letters asking her to reconsider her decision. A top Vatican official called her assisted suicide, “an absurdity.” Maynard’s mother defended her daughter’s choice in a letter: “My twenty-nine-year-old daughter’s choice to die gently rather than suffer physical and mental degradation and intense pain does not deserve to be labeled as reprehensible by strangers a continent away who do not know her or the particulars of her situation.”
This 2015, a 24-year old woman from Belgium who suffers from depression had her wish to die granted. The stark difference between this case and Maynard’s is that Laura (how she identified herself) isn’t terminally ill. Doctors gave the go-ahead for Laura to be euthanized by lethal injection after spending her life battling suicidal thoughts.
Speaking to Belgian newspaper De Morgen, Laura said, “Life, that’s not for me. Death feels to me not as a choice. If I had a choice, I would choose a bearable life, but I have done everything and that was unsuccessful.”
Laura entered a psychiatric institution when she was 21 years old. She says her alcoholic father as well as her troubled childhood were contributing factors to her longtime “death wish.” Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002.
The practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering is something that is being debated heatedly. Just like in Maynard’s case, the internet was filled with discussions on whether it was the right decision or not. But in the end, Maynard got her wish. And Laura will be getting hers too.
However, a number of others are pleading to allow them to die but have not been given the green light. That brings up the question, what are the pros and cons of euthanasia?
List of Pros of Euthanasia
1. It is a human right
People have an explicit right to die, they day. Supporters of euthanasia agree that a separate right is not needed because our human rights imply that we have the right to die. Also, other supporters argue that death is a private matter, meaning, if it doesn’t cause hard to others then the state and others don’t have a right to interfere.
2. It is a practical choice
Euthanasia is legal with several governments around the world recognizing voluntary euthanasia. Although Belgium and the Netherlands have legalized the practice, it is still considered homicide but is not prosecuted and not even punishable if the perpetrator (aka the doctor) meets certain legal conditions.
Like the Maynard case, opting to end one’s life is seen as easing the suffering that would happen should they try and fight their illness. We all know how hard is it to go through lots of hospitals for tests and then there’s the side effects as well. Some don’t want to go through that and want to end their pain and suffering in the mildest way.
List of Cons of Euthanasia
1. Life is sacred
We have always been taught that it isn’t right to kill others, no matter how bad they make you feel. When you commit a crime, laws are in place that would put you in jail to make you pay for what you did. In other words, all life is sacred and why would you want to give up on yours?
Whether suffering from a terminal illness or severe depression, many feel that there are ways that pain can be eased rather than resorting to death straightaway. But like proponents of euthanasia would say: assisting a subject to die is much better than forcing them to continue to live and suffer. Then again, those who are opposed to this idea as euthanasia weakens the respect society for the sanctity of life.
In the US, the state of Oregon has declared euthanasia to be legal. That is also the state where Maynard was when she ended her life.
2. There is alternative treatment available
As mentioned earlier, there are other ways to ease the pain. Opponents of euthanasia argue that cessation of active treatment combined with the use of effective pain relief are available. In other words, it is better to try alternatives and see where that goes rather than opt to end your life.
But for some, the pain becomes unbearable and they no longer want to be a burden for their family, particularly financially. After all, it costs a lot to get sick and get treated. So, opting to end one’s life will ease the financial burden on the family since knowing that their illness is terminal after all.
3. It can lead to less good care for terminally ill patients
Giving people the right to die hinders the normal operations of doctors and nurses: their dedication to saving lives. This also brings up a concern regarding finding a cure for the treatment of the terminally ill. If euthanasia were to be the option that people would choose to end their pain, that wouldn’t motivate researchers to look for cures to various other life-threatening diseases.
Those who are against euthanasia also see it as a cost-effective means of treating the terminally ill. Meaning, no more medicines need to be given once the decision to end one’s life is made.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.