Euthanasia: When is it the right choice?

I recently read a piece in the NY Times advocating for passage of an “End of Life Option Act” in California that would allow terminally ill individuals to receive assistance in accelerating the process of dying. The story (“Death Without Dignity” – 10 JUN 2015) touched on a point that I have been wrestling with for some time, one that was succinctly made by a commenter on that story under the screen name “HappyCyclist” from Charlottesville, VA.

“For a long time people have taken their pets to veterinarians to be “put to sleep” when the animals have been too ill to live a good life any longer. I haven’t done this with a pet myself but I understand this process is painless and quick. So there is knowledge how to do this.”

In the case of a suffering pet assisted death, or euthanasia, is considered merciful and an act of love and caring for the pet. Those who continue to pump medicines into the animal or subject it to continued extraordinary care just to keep it around a few more days or weeks are considered cruel, selfish owners who are more interested in their own comfort than in the comfort of their beloved pet.

Yet when it comes to humans we turn that reasoning on its head. No longer are we concerned about the comfort of the dying loved one. Now we must use every means possible to deny death its victory, to extend that life just a little longer. This is done often when the patient is in a coma, completely unaware of what is going on, or worse when the patient is experiencing tremendous pain and must endure debilitating pain medications. It is akin to torture, and if we were to subject criminals to this during their executions it would rightly be branded as cruel and unusual punishment.

Are we, in our mistaken and misguided attempt to preserve life at all costs, simply prolonging the suffering of our loved one? Would it not be more humane, more loving, to allow our loved one some dignity in their final moments, allowing them to make the choice of when to die, when to say that final goodbye, and in doing so avoid what so many of us fear: a painful and torturous passing?

About the author

Einarr (aka Richard Johnson) is part of the creative writing team for Barbed Arrow Games. Since the last time he wrote code was on Hollerith cards Grond won't let me near anything to do with the programming. So he and Grevnol let me play around with other fun things, like this blog.

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