Euthanasia may be illegal but it’s not unpopular!
Both Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide are illegal in:
- United Kingdom
- Japan (however, a court had ruled in one case of Physician-Assisted Suicide legal)
Euthanasia may be illegal, but physician assisted suicide isn’t illegal, not in:
- Switzerland: Here, even a non-physician can perform it as long as it is proved that his motive is not a selfish one.
Both Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide are legal in:
- The Netherlands since 2001
- Belgium since 2002
The difference between Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide.
It may seem that a fine line separates both, but actually the difference is marked. In both types the patient wants to end his life, but in the second case, the doc is involved, he provides the lethal injection/medication. You can read about the distinction between the two terms here and here. But in neither type does the doctor himself administer the injection/medication as that is considered tantamount to murder.
The law doesn’t allow it but people want it
What I found even more interesting is that even though Euthanasia is illegal in almost all of the world, public attitudes are largely sympathetic to Euthanasia. I got these charts from this blog, and the data is originally from this world survey. I had saved these charts on my pc months ago, and now cannot find them on the original site.
Some countries like Japan, New Zealand and France scored more than 6 points out of 10 on the issue of euthanasia, which means that they felt that euthanasia was mostly justifiable. But those in countries like Ireland, Portugal and Hungary had a much lower score and felt otherwise.
Interestingly, in countries where Euthanasia has been de-criminalized, like the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland, more people are in favour of it. This makes one wonder whether legalisation tends to swing a certain section of the people who are sitting on the fence to change their view in favour of euthanasia.
There is significant support for euthanasia in the United States and the United Kingdom. More recent surveys show that almost two thirds of the population are in favour of it (wiki). In fact, people are travelling to countries which permit euthanasia so they can end their life! According to the bbc:
…many terminally ill foreigners, including Britons, now travel to Switzerland to commit suicide, taking advantage of the Swiss rules, which are among the world’s most liberal on assisted suicide.
Here is an Asia chart:
Overall, those countries which are dead against euthanasia are often so because of religious reasons. In India more people seem to be against it than for it. I am against euthanasia too, but I am ambivalent towards physician assisted suicide, if it is voluntary and the demand is from the terminally ill patient himself, assuming he is of sound mind.
I can’t help thinking of the case of Venkatesh, a young man with a genetic neurological disorder who was on life support. He wanted it turned off “before his organs suffer irreparable damage” as he wanted to donate his organs. But the case in the Supreme court dragged on (the High Court had rejected his request) and Venkatesh died before his last wish could be fulfilled.
Is Mercy Killing a form of assisted suicide?
There is an interesting article, which talks how important it is to distinguish between euthanasia and mercy killing. It is written by Dr. Ram E. Rajagopalan, Consultant & Head, Department of Critical Care Medicine, Sundaram Medical Foundation, Chennai. He writes:
…there is an urgent need to make the public aware of the distinction between `euthanasia’ (also called `mercy killing’) and the limitation or withdrawal of life-prolonging treatments (treatment limitation) in individuals who have a negligible chance of recovery.
Euthanasia is an act that, however well intentioned, aims to end a life. The primary purpose of the act is to use the termination of life as a mode of `providing relief’ from discomfort. In contrast, the act of treatment limitation provides relief by minimising or eliminating treatment options that do not enhance survival.
Recent advances in medical treatment and life-support technology have offered immense benefit to many patients who may not have survived an illness of comparable seriousness even a few decades ago. However, for every life saved by these innovations, there are many others who do not recover and who are left inexorably on treatments and support that only aggravate their pain and suffering.
India stands out as one of the few countries in the world that have no laws on limitation of treatment.
It’s a persuasive argument, but the truth is even in countries where the rule of law is strong, like Holland and Switzerland, there are some cases where these “end-of-life decisions (took place) for morally unacceptable reasons.”
There will always be someone who takes this critical decision, the decision that survival will not be enhanced, and well, that is the pitfall.
Related Reading: Suicide rates of the world and why people kill themselves
Some reasons for the high suicide rate in India
Some tips on how you can help people manage their depression and grief
Rejecting others and isolating them seems to be a human trait (about the suicide of a young student)
Humans like forming ghettos