Euthanasia: are we ready for a reasonable conversation?
The time has come to have a healthy and reasonable conversation about euthanasia, Greek for good death.
Most readers know dear ones who suffer(ed) from a painful and incurable illness. Three years ago I saw my younger sister struggle with excruciating pain caused by gastric cancer. Her physicians told me that there was no hope for improvement. I was usually able to fight back my tears until I left her room in the hospice but, felt desperately helpless not being able to help her (a big brother is supposed to take care of his younger siblings). I don’t deny thinking about euthanasia when I saw her laying hopeless on her bed, but couldn’t bring up the courage. Somehow I didn’t want to create the impression that I wanted her gone.
Back to my first statement. Euthanasia can be active or passive. In active euthanasia a person directly and deliberately causes the patient’s death. In passive euthanasia he doesn’t directly take the patient’s life, but allows him to die. There is also indirect euthanasia which means providing treatment (usually to reduce pain) with the side effect of speeding the patient’s death. Another variation is assisted euthanasia which involves the person who is going to die to ask for help (e.g. getting drugs) to terminate his life. Finally, euthanasia can be voluntary, occurring at the request of the person who dies or non-voluntary, when the person is unable to make a meaningful choice between living and dying, and an appropriate person takes the decision on his behalf.
I agree with euthanasia when its voluntary, assisted by physicians, based on solid medical evaluation and only when consent has been explicitly expressed.
Euthanasia is a ticklish topic in Curaçao and not regulated by law. Religious opponents usually believe that the right to die belongs to God but, their views are both varied and complicated. Since no religion is based on reason, a discussion on euthanasia based on religious grounds only are by definition not reasonable. A meaningful conversation on this matter needs participation of the wider public – and not just the long-standing religious opponents and advocates. It’s also good to realize that the tide of international reform regarding euthanasia will soon reach our shores. Will we be ready?
Alex David Rosaria (53) is a freelance consultant active in Asia & Pacific. He is a former Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and UN Implementation Officer in Africa and Central America. He’s from Curaçao and has a MBA from the University of Iowa. (USA).