• Saturday, Jul 02, 2022
  • Last Update : 03:54 pm

The right to die, the right to kill

  • Published at 10:02 am November 13th, 2020
Photo: Bigstock

It is nearing the end of 2020, and those of us following the waves of the Covid 19 pandemic are well aware of how New Zealand has distinguished itself on its timely and efficient response to the coronavirus.

It launched what are referred to as  “successful non pharmaceutical interventions”,which resulted in the lowest death rate in the developed world, roughly 4 per a million people, 49 times lower than the OECD average. Therefore, it seems rather incongruous that a country lauded the world over for saving lives, is now considering legalising euthanasia, or the termination of life by the deliberate action (or inaction)of a physician. 

Euthanasia is not the same as ‘assisted suicide’,where the doctor prescribes, but does not administer a lethal dose of medication, or ‘mercy killing’ performed by a patient's family or friends. Active euthanasia is the direct intervention of a physician, while passive euthanasia is the decision to relinquish life sustaining treatment. It is argued that the phrase ‘passive euthanasia’is a contradiction in terms, as wil ful (in)action itself does not directly cause death, and therefore is not a form of euthanasia at all.

If we were to examine euthanasia from the Islamic perspective, we need to first understand what exactly the termination of life is. It is death, or the separation of the soul and the body and the beginning of the afterlife, not merely the cessation of breathing or falling into an irreversible coma. 

In Islam death is predestined, and therefore suicide or taking one’s own life is unacceptable. Active euthanasia is tantamount to killing a person, as are assisted suicide and mercy killing; passive euthanasia is riddled with ambiguities and debates because of the advances in technology which have rendered an exact determination of a medical death uncertain. There is also concern that a precipitous declaration of death could sanction organ harvesting for transplantation, and thereby violate the sanctity of saving life. 

In the non-Islamic societies, euthanasia itself is a contentious issue. It is supported by those who believe that mentally competent patients have a right to control their own medical treatment and this includes the right to request and receive what is viewed as a ‘voluntary euthanasia’ in the case of unbearable pain and suffering or a terminal condition. 

The proponents against euthanasia argue that legalising it would lead to the vulnerable or mentally incapacitated being euthanised without their consent, or the elderly or chronically ill being encouraged or pressurised to consent to end their lives to reduce the burden of financial or emotional strain on their families or carers, that voluntary would stealthily become involuntary. They maintain that euthanasia could be a dangerous discriminatory tool against racial minorities, and could become a mandate to take away the lives of the defenceless and the disabled. 

From a medical perspective, the fundamental core of the Hippocratic Oath is the total commitment to saving lives, and euthanasia is a complete contradiction of physicians as healers, and medicine as a healing profession. Furthermore, it diminishes the importance of end – of - life care. 

Then why at this stage, with the onset of fatalities in the second Covid 19 wave is New Zealand considering legalising euthanasia? Possibly because the subtext of saving lives is efficiently saving lives and/or conserving the means to saving lives. 

The coronavirus demonstrated how health systems can quickly become overwhelmed,how with limited medical resources physicians make choices as to which lives to save, how exposed medical staff are to infections, and how palliative or old age care comes undone in the face of contagion. It reduced human beings to in, out, and intensive care patients, and stripped death of the dignity of rituals. A deceased is now a number, Covid or non-Covid, and end of life is mired in calculations and statistics, and discussions of termination of life, be it active or passive, can now be had without any hysteria. Whatever the reasons, with no end to the pandemic in sight, we may soon be hearing a lot more about euthanasia, and not just from New Zealand. 

Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur. 

Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail