Euthanasia or not euthanasia – that is the question

Two of my senior friends, both in their 80s, said at dinner the other night that they believed in euthanasia. I
Opinion

Two of my senior friends, both in their 80s, said at dinner the other night that they believed in euthanasia. I am assuming that they were meaning voluntary euthanasia in respect of their own lives. The conversation arose around a distant relative who was languishing in an aged care facility. This person is 104 and no longer has any quality to life. Over the last 12 months she had stopped any involvement in life and was no longer watching TV, listening to radio and communicating very little. Her memory and recognition of people she knows is problematic. She was found on visits to the facility asleep with her head drooped.

Euthanasia is not an option in Australia. It is a criminal offence. It is too controversial and complex an issue for our timid politicians. It has been raised a number of times in private member’s bills and it has now been placed in the too hard basket. There are not many places in the world where euthanasia is legal. Only in the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Colombia and Luxembourg is euthanasia lawful. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Albania and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico, Montana and California.

We are living longer. It’s a statistical reality. According to the ABS between 1994 and 2014, the proportion of the population aged 65 years and over increased from 11.8% to 14.7%. This group is projected to increase more rapidly over the next decade. Over the past two decades, the number of persons aged 85 years and over increased by 153%, compared with a total population growth of 32% over the same period. Over the past two decades, the number of centenarians increased by 263%, reflecting an increase in life expectancy for both males and females during the period. In the year ending 30 June 2014, the number of people aged 85 years and over increased by 19,200 people (4.4%) to reach 456,500.

It is great that advances in medical technology can keep us alive longer. A grandparent recently told me that his father was the recipient of a pacemaker. His father is 91. Knee and hip replacements are common operations in seniors. We seem to be surviving past our due by date (whatever that may be?) The consequences are more chronic illnesses towards the end of life and an increased health cost in the last two years of life. The elderly become patients either in their own homes or in nursing homes. The deterioration in health becomes a heartache to close relatives and the issues around homecare and eventually being placed in a nursing home can be distressing. It is questionable whether there will be enough nursing home beds to accommodate the future frail aged.

However, it seems to me lack of quality of life alone is not a justification for any life ending scenario. Terminal illness and constant suffering as in the end days of cancer is another matter. My two senior friends may not be aware that euthanasia if it was lawful could either be active or passive. That is actively administering or assisting in the demise of another or passively not providing drugs or medication resulting in death. The consequences of passive euthanasia defeats the purpose because it causes more suffering. I am aware of a situation in which a person in a vegetative state in accordance with a court order did not have a feeding tube replaced when it came adrift. Much to the horror of staff and family members it took 12 days for the person to die or literally starve to death.

Personally, if I had a terminal illness and was suffering, I would opt to go sooner than later.

What are your thoughts on this controversial topic?

  1. Pam Brooksby

    We put down an animal if they are incurable and in pain .but we humans let the suffering go on and on

  2. Trish Daley

    I agree 100% in euthanasia for people suffering from terminal illness, there is a huge difference in living and just hanging on to life. For myself I would like to have the choice to end my life when I can no longer live pain free to really enjoy life as it should be, we are kinder to our animals than the human race.

  3. Libbi Elliot

    Without any reservation I am for euthanasia, I don’t want to die lingering in pain, I can’t see the sense of it. People with terminal illness are NOT going to recover, so why prolong their suffering ? We put an animal to sleep so it won’t suffer, why are we worth less than them ?

  4. Libbi Elliot

    Without any reservation I am for euthanasia, I don’t want to die lingering in pain, I can’t see the sense of it. People with terminal illness are NOT going to recover, so why prolong their suffering ? We put an animal to sleep so it won’t suffer, why are we worth less than them ?

    • Wendy Whiteman

      We are not worth less than them its just they have no voice so threy sre considered disposable its all about the dogooders butting in with their stupid idiot ideas I agree noone should suffer I have had my mother put into care after a stroke one day she is home and the next she never sees it again she doesnt want to go on anymore but society says she has too I know she woukd want to end her life humanely lets hope we csn soon make it legal the movement is growing ever so slowly but at least we are moving

    • Sue Todd

      Agree. My mother is 94, and sick of living. All her friends are gone, she has been put in a home which she hates, and she is bored and unhappy. Sadly for her she is in fairly good health, but when the time comes that she isn’t she’d be horrified if her life was prolonged

    • Dee Bond

      Totally agree, Libbi. Death doesn’t scare me….but how I die does! My dear old dad made a decision in hospital in England not to have sustenance, although he agreed to water until I arrived. The doctors respected his wishes (after confirming with me and my brothers). But he lingered without sustenance for two weeks. A lot of that was sheer determination to stay alive until I got there, and he died two days after I arrived. But what an awful decision to make.

    • Rob Bower

      Totally agree Libbi, when you see people suffer so much, knowing they have no hope of survival, will be in constant pain, pain relief is not always the best option, laying in a bed, totally helpless, give me death with dignity not a life of suffering…

    • Patricia Gavin

      When my mother was admitted to hospital the morning of her death,she told the doctors she didn’t want any treatment,even when told she would die from her heart attack. I was sitting at her side in ICU, and I remember the cardiologist asking me did I agree with her decision? Mum was in full control of her faculties, and it was something we had discussed before, so the decision was not mine to make. She just didn’t want to be here anymore. I had the privilege of spending the day with her, in a private room at the hospital, along with her grandchildren & some close friends, chatting & laughing with her, until she peacefully passed away. I recall during the day thinking, they’ve made a mistake,she’s going to be fine. But the medical staff kindly assured me assured me she wouldn’t

    • Gail Riley  

      I’m incensed with the idea that someone else can insist that I suffer pain n’ indignity (should that time occur) when I have stated clearly that I want a dignified end. Everyone close to me knows exactly how I feel about this and respect my view – tis my life, my body, and I would not be changing my mind on this desire. NZ are in the throws of seriously contemplating this issue so I hope they manage to make a new law of choice.

    • Dee Thwaites

      Totally agree no more suffering to the end keep it moving so many people have suffered and the family suffer seeing their loved ones dying slowly .

  5. Angela Johnston

    We can be prosecuted for prolonging an animal’s suffering yet must endure our own pain till the end.

  6. Angela Johnston

    We can be prosecuted for prolonging an animal’s suffering yet must endure our own pain till the end.

  7. Kelly Sandwith

    I agree with euthanasia, I want to die with dignity, not suffer and be in pain. …Life is about quality not quantity. …I watched both my parents suffer with cancer with no hope of recovery. ..My mother was 47 when she died …I watched her suffering in pain and become a veg like state it was cruel and heart breaking to watch

    • Lulu Holland  

      Same as me with my Mum Kelly, it angers me when people say that with today’s drugs no one dies in pain, but they do and I witnessed it first hand

    • Eileen Smith

      Totally agree!
      It is so hard even for the families watching their love ones, knowing they are suffering but not being able to help them.

  8. Kelly Sandwith

    I agree with euthanasia, I want to die with dignity, not suffer and be in pain. …Life is about quality not quantity. …I watched both my parents suffer with cancer with no hope of recovery. ..My mother was 47 when she died …I watched her suffering in pain and become a veg like state it was cruel and heart breaking to watch

    • Lulu Holland  

      Same as me with my Mum Kelly, it angers me when people say that with today’s drugs no one dies in pain, but they do and I witnessed it first hand

    • Eileen Smith

      Totally agree!
      It is so hard even for the families watching their love ones, knowing they are suffering but not being able to help them.

    • Kelly Sandwith

      Its not so much the death its the suffering , loss of dignity , and loss of quality of life …Also the family and friends who have to watch for months /years watching their overall one fade away in misery and being unable to do anything ..When their love one is praying to hurry up and die

  9. Michele Bell

    I think it should be allowed, my poor mum has dementia and has no quality of life. She constantly says I don’t want to be here. She used to love a piece of cake and a cup of tea, not anymore. She celebrated her 90th birthday in Australia with her family, she wouldn’t eat or drink anything. Not sure of who these people were, she only recognised me after I had been with her a little while. It is not fair my mum always lived and cared for those around her to end her life like this is very sad

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