Euthanasia is not a solution

The word euthanasia derives from the Greek words “eu” (good, true) and “thanatos” (death), which literally means “good death”, without suffering. Only a deeply insensitive person does not feel compassion for someone who is going through great physical and psychological torment and does not understand the tiredness of being alive and aspiring for death, facing anguish every day, without hope for better days. It is, therefore, not very difficult to see many of the arguments in favor of decriminalising euthanasia.

Advocates cite individual freedom and total self-determination, which must prevail over the will of others in the community, because only those who are in agony know what they are experiencing. That all proposed laws for legalising euthanasia are restrictive and have very well defined criteria, thus avoiding exaggeration and the “slippery slope”.

Even if a decision to euthanise may, indeed, result from social influence they are a constant factor in everyone’s life, so it cannot be avoided in matters of death.

Moreover, if killing someone is legally accepted in circumstances including self-defence, combat and, in some countries, the death penalty, why not to allow the death of a suffering human being, as a gesture of marked compassion and humanity?

For those who take refuge in the Hippocratic Oath, to which doctors are subject, and which prevent them from killing a patient, remember that the original oath prevented surgical operations, abortion or the collection of fees for exercise of medical functions, all of which have since been allowed. Nothing prevents a new change to reflect society’s changes. No one is required to request euthanasia, just as it is not mandatory to have an abortion.

Are these arguments irrefutable? They seem to contain common sense, sensitivity and compassion. However, there are clear answers to these points.

The issue of total individual self-determination in these laws is a fallacy. In fact, it establishes very serious constraints on that “freedom” by introducing the factors of inequality and injustice. With an arbitrary process responsible for allowing euthanasia, there will be many patients who will not see their request fulfilled. Is it not perverse to “condemn” a person to life if they want to die?

When providing well-defined criteria there is still no total individual self-determination, as euthanasia should be a unique and exclusive decision of the person. But, in this light, any healthy individual could request to be killed, which would rightly still be a crime.

Social pressures in life cannot be equated with social pressures for death – this is irreversible. The days will come when children feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and in an ordeal, because they care for sick and dependent parents, will gently offer them euthanasia. And parents, out of immeasurable love for their children, will request the procedure so that they are no longer a “burden”.

The issues of self-defence and combat (and even the death penalty) are based on the assumption that there are other lives to protect, which would justify an individual’s death. In euthanasia, the life in question creates risk for other lives.

If the Hippocratic Oath ever waived the “absolute respect for human life (…) even under threat”, the patient’s health would no longer be the “first concern” of the doctor, as stated in the document, and would become the second, because the patient’s will would prevail. From the moment that this occurs, the doctor-patient relationship would be mortally wounded – doctors would regularly face inappropriate and damaging requests from patients.

No one forces you to choose euthanasia, but laws do not work that way. There are numerous individual choices, without prejudice to others, considered unacceptable legally, socially and morally, so they are not decriminalised. This is because, in addition to their individual freedom, the individual is part of the community and has a collective identity that results from the limits defined by the respective culture. For example, polygamy could become legal because no one would force another to be a polygamist; in Western society it is currently inconceivable.

The subject of euthanasia seems to be nothing more than something to entertain the most distracted minds, based on abstract assumptions. There are much more important issues to discuss and measures to implement. Experts propose investment on palliative care rather than supporting euthanaisa. Dysthanasia and therapeutic obstinacy are also a huge problem, as doctors are not properly trained to know when to say “stop everything!”, to avoid examinations and treatments that cause unnecessary suffering.

The effort to find other words for euthanasia, such as “sweet death” or “dignified death”, is also nonsense because “euthanasia” is already a word with no negative connotation (“good death”). The same is not true for other concepts, which lack a more appropriate lexicon. He who kills another or is the moral author of that death (like the legislator) is a “murderer”.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to find other concepts, since no patient in intolerable suffering will claim to call the “murderer” who guarantees him a “sweet death”.

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