SPECIAL NOTE: Since I posted this blog post, Adam Maier-Clayton (whose interview with CBC I posted at the end of this post in a link) has taken his own life. My heart and thoughts go to his family. However, I'm sure they will agree that Adam made the right choice for himself (as all of us should have the right to do this). I relate to Adam's situation because I know what it's like to live with chronic pain, fear, anxiety, depression, and often without hope. My post below is strongly-worded because those who have the power to legalise voluntary euthanasia just don't seem to want to listen. But as you can see, whether you do or don't, when the time comes for each of us (and we think we've had enough) we will find a way to go irrespective of the law. The only thing you can do is ease the way by letting us go with dignity.
If Australia were a truly progressive and enlightened nation, our politicians, the medical profession, and religious organisations would take the attitude of “live and let live” or in the case of euthanasia “live and let die”.
Unfortunately, Australia is not a progressive and enlightened nation (more's the pity), but one filled with condescending politicians, an often arrogant medical profession, and the bigotry of religious organisations. What do these bodies all have in common? Hypocrisy.
Now, let’s look at voluntary euthanasia and the arguments that are usually put forward by the government, the medical profession, and religious organisations.
Government: It’s unethical. People would abuse it and exit this world when they simply feel a bit depressed. It’s not a choice individuals are capable of making by themselves anyway. People would have to at least have an incurable illness and go through counselling, plus have two doctors to justify their wish for euthanasia before we’d even consider making it legal. They would have to have a month or two to live at most and not simply take the easy way out. And what about those who don’t have their full faculties about them? They cannot make a decision by themselves, and their relatives might push them into it.
Medical profession: Doctors are here to preserve life, not take it. We can help people with chronic pain and depression, so they should not be eligible to choose even if euthanasia were legalised. What about people with dementia or the vulnerable elderly? Their families may try to persuade them to opt for euthanasia so they are no longer a burden. Young people shouldn’t even be considered for euthanasia; they’re not old enough to make a decision on their own suffering.
Religious organisations: God gave life, and only God should take it away. It’s a sin to commit suicide. We can’t have a clear conscience if we support the legalisation of euthanasia.
There are many other arguments put forward as to why a person cannot opt to take their own life via euthanasia, but I’m sure you’ve got the idea by now. Therefore, my response to all three groups is this: “Where is your empathy?”
To government: Putting aside the fact that you don’t have empathy, especially judging by the way you treat the general population with your budgetary cuts to health, education, social security and so on, who are you to tell us that we cannot die with dignity? When we have a sick pet we can choose to let them die peacefully, without pain; so why do you wish for the general population to suffer greatly? Have you ever seen anyone die slowly?
It took my father about five years or longer to die. He battled about four different cancers; later developed dementia; diabetes type-2; and he was treated worse than an animal in the nursing home in which he had to be placed due to his poor condition. Plus I'd like to add that he was first kicked out of a Catholic nursing home because of his dementia (so much for religious compassion), and they gave very little notice to my super stressed mother to find another nursing home for him. So she had to rush and put him in the first nursing home that would take him irrespective of the fact that the home was less than desirable. Meanwhile, the medical profession got to him with their chemotherapy and other dangerous drugs designed to break down a person’s immune system, combined with certain errors made at the hospital; and the very poor quality of care in both the nursing home and the hospital that my father became subject to. But what really killed him in the end was lack of personal care, which led to a diabetes sore becoming infected, landing him again in hospital where antibiotics were useless against the super bugs such as MRSA; and this is what led to fatal pneumonia. My father died without knowing who we were; he had been bedridden for months, and he weighed half his normal weight.
I will never forget my last visit to him. He was literally skin and bones, hanging on by a thread; and we were all waiting for him to die--our family, because we wanted his suffering to stop; and the hospital, because they needed the bed.
Had euthanasia been legal most of this suffering (my father's; and ours, at seeing him in such a deplorable condition) could have been avoided, and Dad would have left this world with dignity and peace. He always used to say he wanted to go in his sleep...
But wait! The government will not legalise euthanasia. Why? Because it seems they like people to suffer. After all, what other reason could they have for subjecting people to such a horrible end?
I should add in my father's case, the fact that he ended up with dementia and was not capable to make a choice at the time (should the choice for euthanasia have existed) could have been overcome by him making a stipulation as part of his will when he was still well. Or at worst, in cases such as his, an application for euthanasia could go through the courts in order to let him die with dignity and also eliminate any potential wrongdoing on the part of relatives.
From another perspective, you (the government) think nothing of sending soldiers to fight wars that are not even ours! And many are killed as a result. Young and healthy men and women are put to death in order to satisfy your immense greed for power. So the message you send to the nation is that it’s okay for the government to kill off healthy people for political ends, but it’s not okay for someone who is suffering horribly to have access to euthanasia. Yes, that about sums it up for the government.
To the medical profession: You kill off more patients than any other profession on the planet including terrorism. You often pass off your mistakes and errors of judgement as unforeseeable circumstances. You destroy people’s immune systems with your drugs (that may as well be some concoction from the dark ages for all the good they do). You take credit when you manage to save someone, but how many others have you killed with pain and suffering (and the torture of drug side-effects) to counteract the odd person you might save? At least give people the choice to end it if they so wish!
You say you’re here to save lives, not take them. How hypocritical is this? Many of you kill without compunction; you kill through lack of attention and care, and oftentimes through preventable errors due to non-compliance for safety regulations. You often have no empathy or conscience; and for some it's only about the money you earn, and it has nothing to do with caring about people.
To religious organisations: I only have one thing to say to you; when you stop molesting young children and scarring them for life (often driving them to take their own lives as a result of your actions), only then will you have a voice and earn the credibility to opine on any moral issue.
In general, religion is a matter of choice and personal belief, and each person has the freedom in this country to either believe or not believe in something greater than themselves. Just as religion is a matter of personal belief and choice, so should euthanasia be.
In my view, I’m sure if there is something greater than us, that something will understand if we opt for a painless death. After all, isn't religion meant to be about unconditional love and forgiveness? So clean your own house first—meaning, get rid of the suffering you inflict on those who believe in your religion—and above all, do no harm.
In conclusion: You should all know (especially the government) that if you don’t legalise voluntary euthanasia for all those who wish to have the option to choose regardless of their age and different levels of suffering, suicides will still happen. People will find another way to kill themselves. Unfortunately, it will be in a crude and painful manner thanks to your lack of policy on euthanasia.
If you believe the right to die with dignity is something you cannot condone because you think you have a conscience, then let me put to you that allowing people in pain, despair, and mental suffering to kill themselves in horrid ways is something that should worry your conscience far more than legalising a humane conduit to exit this planet.
I personally know many who suffer from chronic or serious illness (and it doesn’t have to be cancer), and they are not looked after by government, the medical profession, religious organisations, or sometimes even their own family.
These people are often considered a “burden on society” and the government is not going to dig into their pocket to help sustain them (you don't have to go further for proof of this than seeing those trying to apply for disability pension because they cannot work, and being rejected outright again and again). Therefore, why not do something truly ethical and compassionate for a change, and give each person the right to choose how they end their life?
Lastly, I read that people who have free access to Nembutal (the euthanasia drug) end up living more fully (and often longer) in the knowledge that they can enjoy each day for as long as possible, and that when worse comes to worst they have the assurance they will not suffer but simply slip away in peaceful slumber.
Unlike what others may think, having access to euthanasia drugs will not create a mass exodus via Nembutal on this planet. If anything, more people will die in wars, terrorist attacks, medical blunders, accidents, and the list goes on. People who have the option of a pain-free and peaceful exit will be happier and more reassured that the end will not be horrible when the time comes. This is an incredibly empowering thought--to have control over one's end.
Remember, voluntary euthanasia should simply be a choice for the individual to make. Those who don’t agree with it don’t have to make this choice, but please respect the choice of others.
At the end of the day it really comes down to personal choice and not superimposing beliefs and values from government, the medical profession or religion on the people who wish to go with euthanasia. So live and let live and live and let die.
Here is the heartbreaking story of 27-year-old Adam Maier-Clayton from Windsor, Canada. Please read it and ask yourself why it's you, and not him, who should judge whether he goes on living or not. Again, governments and the medical profession (leaving religion aside) have a lot to answer for.
Author Sylvia Massara's: