Should Euthanasia Be Legal Nationwide?

In the past, I’ve written about the pitfalls and benefits of euthanasia. Should we have a right to terminate our lives when circumstances are dire? Should federal and/or state governments regulate this activity, keeping in mind that euthanasia is rife with practical, medical, ethical and religious minefields.

Medical ethicists give us great issues to ponder. Should doctors and researchers have the extension of life as a primary goal? Is keeping a suffering individual alive the golden rule in every situation? What is the current and prospective lifestyle possibilities of the person in jeopardy? Is pain a primary or secondary issue? Should a life be terminated if an individual does not want to live or has indicated during healthier times an aversion to life without full consciousness and lucidity?

The pitfalls of euthanasia are multifaceted and seemingly endless. Do the custodians of a sick person have a right to decide what would be best for a sufferer? For sure, if the sufferer has not expressed his desires previously and cannot speak for himself any longer, someone else must decide. Why wouldn’t every healthy person sign a document indicating to their survivors what their wishes are in times before death? These are called living wills. In fact, taking this decision from loved ones could be a great relief especially if family members disagree. In some situations, it is a gift from the sufferer.

What should a family do if there is little money available to continue treatment for a seriously ailing love one? Or their love one is in terrible pain? Or the sufferer is not lucid? Or the sufferer cannot take care of him or herself? And the big question, what should happen when it is just too much to deal with a loved ones’ sickness any longer?

Religion can play a significant role in a euthanasia decision. For instance, devout Catholics believe euthanasia is a mortal sin, one that results in eternal damnation. Why would a believer commit a mortal sin in his last moment on earth? Eternal damnation is a great threat to some people.

Many think that hospice is in fact a form of euthanasia. What difference does it make if a sufferer is given a pill that takes life immediately or is deprived of food and water and dies in a few days? It seems like straw splitting to me. These are identical for all intents and purposes.

As one ages, sometimes we feel detached and useless. A feeling of not being an integral part of the family could be very depressing, especially if the individual does not have activities to keep busy. The moment may come when a person believes he no longer has a purpose in life. Why shouldn’t these people have an opportunity to end their lives?

Many would say that euthanasia is a coward’s way out. This is true in some circumstances, but not all. Approaching a moment when a person’s mental health is in shambles and his role in life is diminished may be an excellent moment to move on.

By far the most useful situation for consideration of euthanasia is when serious health problems are involved. No one should be forced to live with excruciating pain every day. Our leaders and lawmakers should consider a nationwide policy pertaining to euthanasia that can be used in carefully planned situations.

I have mixed feelings regarding euthanasia. In fact, I had a situation many years ago when a doctor asked me if I wanted a very sick relative to be resuscitated if he died. I was unable to make the decision to give up hope. In retrospect, it was the wrong decision. 

Euthanasia Should Be Legal Throughout The US

I recently celebrated a birthday that officially puts me into the “old man” category. Frankly I’ve experienced a waterfall of emotions, some of which have been expressed on this blog.

I’ve returned to discuss a controversial topic of particular concern to the elderly. I’m not going to regurgitate data relating to the aging of America. Fact is Americans, on average, are getting older each year.

This phenomenon is a testament to superb efforts by doctors and researchers that ultimately enable us to more effectively fight disease. But there are some dark issues to this longevity bonanza.

You’ve heard the expression that most people spend more on medical care in their final years than they do during their early years. Instead of two or five years of intense medical attention, the older generation is now demanding five to ten years of intensive care.

The resulting impact on America is higher medical costs, greater insurance premiums and horrendous stress on our national health care infrastructure. If the country’s average life span increases every couple years, you can only imagine what will happen to medical costs (Medicare) and the stress on our hospitals and doctors. Wise politicians are already preparing their constituencies for some grim actions that will likely be necessary to avoid a more serious impact on our country’s financial resources.

Having a Medicare age of 65, when our average life expectancy is 70 is sensible. But does it make sense if our average life expectancy is greater than 80, and when most people work far beyond 65? The most obvious need is to delay Medicare a year or two or three, in the near future. Since this is one of the third rails of politics, making a change in Medicare age will be a monstrous undertaking.

But, what about our life styles? Is sitting in front of a TV a good life. Our nation needs to provide ways to keep our elderly intellectually active. It will necessitate great social change, including much more involvement of our adult children.

Having pains and increasingly more medical problems is the life the elderly face. Theoretically it’s better than the alternative. But, is it really? It would be interesting to measure the amount of pain and suffering that is acceptable to people of advanced age. To what degree will a person subject his or her self to pain to stay alive another year or two? Before you have a brush with significant discomfit, it’s natural to think you would always choose life. The opioid epidemic tells us otherwise. Americans take pills to avoid pain at an extremely high rate. In fact, the rate is so high that too many suffers become addicted and die from overdoses.

As a newly minted septuagenarian, I wake up every morning and stretch out all my aches and pain. They are a result of my age in conjunctions with playing contact sports when I was young, along with golf and skiing these days. At times the pain is significant, and I’m in the gym every day.

Others who are my age, more sedentary and suffering from debilitating issues such as arthritis have a very difficult time walking and getting through the day. These people are prime targets for opioid overuse.

The time may come when a serious ailment is too much to bear, or an amalgamation of pain is hard to live with. The choices are: 1. Suffer, 2. Take pain relievers such as opioids, 3. Commit suicide. There are no easy answers.

Let’s focus on the latter- euthanasia, a genteel way to describe ending one’s life. When we think about suicide, too often it results in thoughts about shooting or hanging oneself. But in reality many people move on to the afterlife in a relatively peaceful way in hospice, or with palliative care.

It’s stunning that so many are not in favor of a quick end to a suffering person’s life, yet, for years hospices have deprived individuals of food and water over the course of a few days to hasten death. Is spite of what many defenders say, palliative care is euthanasia by any other name. Similarly “pulling the plug” on life support is not considered murder, but it is an overt act against another human that ends their life.

There are a number of states that have approved euthanasia, and more should be coming around to the same decision over time. We deal with sick animals in a civilized manner by ending their lives to avoid suffering. Why don’t humans deserve the same consideration?

Like any situation involving life and death, it’s a complicated matter to deal with. For one thing euthanasia works best when the sufferer makes the final decision, beforehand in a living will, or on the spot if they are lucid. If third parties become involved the process can get messy. Consider people in a coma for a long period of time, whose relatives can’t find consensus about whether to pull the plug.

Euthanasia is not something available for convenience. Some families are too anxious to end a life if the person is difficult to deal with or using too many resources. Then again financial concerns can be a huge issue for a family that cannot afford intensive care for an extended time. The point is a death decision must be made with great care.

And finally there are religious strictures and busy bodies, who are not shy about sticking their noses in other people’s business. Euthanasia is a family issue. Government should provide guidelines and holy men should become involved only by invitation.

Taking one’s life is not a sin, should not be crime and should be a socially acceptable alternative for people in severe pain and suffering, mental and physical. I hope our politicians recognize this and make euthanasia more accessible.