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It was early June 2002 when my friend Eddy, only nine years old, was diagnosed to be terminal; he had only six months of „agony‟ to live. The events that followed after the news cannot be erased from my mind. We could not believe the news at first, there was a mixture of anxiety, shock, anger and despair. We could not fathom why such a charming and intelligent fellow was intended for such an end. The four months before his death were the toughest of all, moving from one doctor to the next, and taking different medications. At night, he hardly ever slept as the pain was inconceivable. There were times I wondered why he couldn‟t die faster to escape the pain. Despite the fact that the Kenyan government refuses people the “right” to end their own lives, death is usually slow, painful, and undignified; as a result, the government should help reduce that pain and indignity both for patients and their loved ones by legalizing mercy killing.
Currently, Euthanasia (or mercy killing) is a touchy issue, not only because of the various types of moral predicaments about it, but also what comprises its definitions. Euthanasia is translated from Greek as "die well" or "easy death." Originally, the term symbolized painless and peaceful normal deaths in old age that happened in comfortable and familiar environs. The word is currently understood as taking place when one person ends the life of another person for the purpose of ending the killed person's pain or anguish. Promoters of euthanasia like Margaret Sanger, who is accredited with the formation of American Birth Control League (which eventually became Planned Parenthood), agrees by saying; “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it."” John Key, a politician in New Zealand once said, “If I had terminal cancer, I had a few weeks to live, I was in tremendous amount of pain - if they just effectively wanted to turn off the switch and legalise that by legalising euthanasia I would want that,” and not to forget the words of the infamous Jack Kevorkian, “Dying is not a crime.”
There are two categories of Euthanasia. Active euthanasia; which involves deliberate administration of a lethal drug to cause a person‟s death (Mosby‟s Medical Dictionary, 2009), and passive euthanasia which is a mode of ending life in which a physician is given an option not to prescribe futile treatments for the hopelessly ill patient (Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary, 2012). Active euthanasia is typically the more highly debated of the two acts of euthanasia and is better known because of the actions of Dr Jack Kevorkian(also known as Dr Death), who before his death in 2011, had aided in many successful suicides. Dr Jack Kevorkian first successful suicide was witnessed in the 1990 death of Jane Adkins 54, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. She died in Dr Kevorkian's Volkswagen van in Groveland Oaks Park near Holly, Michigan (Bio.com)
According to a statistic carried out in Canada on July 13th, 2014 by Gallup Poll and Associates; 54% of medical practitioners support Euthanasia and 86% of the public support euthanasia for the terminally ill or on life support. This is neither unusual nor unexpected since most people have witnessed what ceaseless pain does to a dying body. Though many people argue that the practise of euthanasia is cold-hearted and inhumane, there are many benefits of mercy killing.
In one of his articles, Tolentino puts forth the following questions concerning assisted suicide; If an individual has the right to live; does he also have the right to die? If there is a right to privacy, does it include the right to die? Does the right to decide one‟s health care include the right to decide to end one‟s life? Is there a right to kill? Is there a point at which an incurable illness becomes a living death? If so, is it permissible for someone‟s life to be deliberately cut off? But this is just one of the many antagonists of „pulling the plug‟, opposing; lacking empathy for the real victims.
Proponents of euthanasia view mercy killing as the freedom to choose when and how to die.
They claim that everyone has the right to choose how to live and die. Euthanasia allows the person, who is merely breathing to pass away, to uphold dignity by arranging their own end. As a result letting them die in peace, rather than endure pain and humiliation. It eliminates their own, as well as the next of kin's, perception of the dying to be a burden physically and economically, and or a disgrace. Each person has value and is worthy of respect, has basic rights and freedoms and the power to control his or her destiny. If we deny them this right, we make a claim that we own their life. We own the product of their time, energy and usefulness. This is something we must never vouch for.
Another view held by the advocates of assisted suicide is that by legalising euthanasia, hospital beds and resources will be freed. This is true since long term care for the terminally ill is a wasteful drain of medical resources on people who will finally die. Why waste these expensive resources on someone who has expressly declared his or her desire to die, when they could be improving the life of someone who desires to live? In addition to this, the saved resources could be used to further the research of the lethal disease to ensure that future cases are reduced and finally eliminated. Suppose the patient is an organ donator and the organs are healthy, they could be donated to save the lives of those who have a high likelihood to survive compared to the patient.
The importance of euthanasia can be witnessed in a case where the patient has a contagious agent within the body that is deadly. Extending the patient‟s life only creates opportunity for him to be communicable. The longer the duration the individual is kept alive the higher the chances of others being affected by the disease if the individual is not handled properly. In 1925, Jeffry Moscow was diagnosed with an incurable disease that was contagious. Despite the doctors‟ efforts to treat him, he died six days later. However, his death did not end there; others who were in contact with him fell prey to the virus and died one after the other. The death toll rose to hundreds. This was a problem which would have been solved easily through active euthanasia on Jeffry.
Euthanasia spares relatives of the patient the torture of observing their loved ones deteriorate beyond recognition. A person dying from cancer feels weak all the time. He or she loses the will to fight. His or her muscles waste away, appearance changes as hair falls off, wrinkles appear and the patient starts to look older. A cancer patient becomes confused, loses memory and cries of pain all the time. It is not a lovely scene! Relatives of the individual anguishing with such illnesses see their active, cheerful relative reduced to a shadow of their former self. Their loved one suffers a slow and painful death. Surely, is it kinder to put a mother, father, brother or sister through such an experience? In my opinion, it would be better to drown them than let them go through such a period.
Euthanasia relieves the patient of lengthy periods of pain. Terminal patients usually face long, slow and painful death. It would be compassionate to spare them this kind of suffering and allow them to end their life comfortably. One may argue that administering pain relievers will help control this pain, but again, that is unadvised position. Pain medications used to alleviate symptoms often have unpleasant side effects or may leave the patient in a state of drowsiness. It is not as if they are really „living‟ during this time; they are merely waiting to die. They should have the right to elude this kind of torturous existence and be permitted to die in a humane way.
Another view for euthanasia is that it lightens the economic burden to be incurred by the relatives of the patient. During the time Eddy was sick, I saw his family reduced to „area beggars‟. There would be occasional harrambes to collect finances for his treatment. The family sought after the help of doctors, traditional healers and religious men who claimed they could cure the disease. If only euthanasia had been legalised, his cry for demise (as he occasionally did) would have been met with one droplet of Dr Jack Kevorkian lethal injection and the economic burden on his relatives would have been avoided.
In conclusion, Euthanasia has always been society broadly and fiercely contested ethical issue; even more in a religious setting like ours. It has aggrieved and drained the Western courts for too long as they question the helpfulness of this subject. It is an endless loop that by no means strikes a consensus. It has pierced holes through the faith in humanity. Why do we let others suffer inconceivable amounts of pain? Is this not inhumanity? Then this issue should be put to rest with only this statement. Grant them death!
LIST OF REFERENCES
Jack Kevorkian- Doctor Death. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Tolentino, A. (2014, April 25). Mercy killing: Yes, no, and why? - The Manila Times Online. Retrieved from http://www.manilatimes.net/mercy- killing-yes-no-and-why/91879/
Active euthanasia. (2009) Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. Retrieved from
Euthanasia Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Passive euthanasia. (2009) Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. Retrieved March 18 2015 from http://medicaldictionary.thefreedictionary.com/passive+euthanasia