Lives Journal 14

Peter Amalietti

 

EUTHANASIA 

 

In primeval society, when man was still a natural being, death was also a part of natureís life; all the feeble, infirm, and elderley were taken by the winter cold, spring hunger, or summer heat. Those who had trouble hearing or seeing, were soon eaten by wild beasts. As for those who survived all these perils but were nothing but a nuisance to their kin, as they were no longer of any use, the ancient peoples had a custom of going somewhere in solitude and wait for the hunger, cold, and wild beasts to kill them, not necessarily in that order. The indigenous Japanese, known as the Ainu, for example, kept a beautiful tradition of a son carrying his aging mother to the top of the mountain in a basket and leaving her there to her fate. The Japanese probably never prohibited euthanasia, being that their tradition includes a beautiful old custom known as hara-kiri, which is considered a dignified and honourable type of suicide, which is what euthanasia Ė or gentle death, as our writer Miha Remec dubbed it Ė is.

At the spring migration, nomadic peoples left redundant old men and women in the old camp, while the rest of the tribe moved to newer pastures. The aging and weakened fishermen on the Pacific Ocean and elsewhere had the custom of taking their boats on one final voyage of no return, after having said goodbye to their families and all their fellow villagers.

In India they also cremated the living widow of along with the deceasedís body, certainly a very painful type of euthanasia. A favourite among the procedures which Roman Emperors liked to prescribe their political opponents was for the condemned to follow up one final dinner in the company of their friends by taking a hot scented bath and slitting both their wrists. This, purportedly painless, method of death was also used for numerous auto-euthanasias throughout history.

Relaxed attitude towards dying and death changed with the advent of the Christian Faith, which upheld the principle of the sanctity of life also by forbidding suicide, and which, due to that same principle, continues to oppose abortion to this day; at the same time, the Church also began spreading general fear of death, namely, according to its teachings, the death of all sinners (and who isnít one) marks the beginning of their posthumous existence in Hell. This is certainly another good reason for a person to desire longevity. However, when disease and extreme frailty make a chronic written-off patientís life a living hell, the latter should have the right to a painless end, or gentle death. Modern medicine, which is now able to prolong the life of a patient in a coma hooked up to artificial lungs, brought a similar ethical quandary.

Irrelevant of all legal, religious, and practical qualms and ohter obstacles, the people in the past always knew ingenious ways in which to help each other find means and methods of procuring gentle death. Quite the opposite, in the not-so-distant past, it was always much harder for people to survive than it was to die, until this was turned on its head by our modern society, wherein it is supposedly harder to live than die, as evidenced by the moral prohibition of suicide and illegality of euthanasia. But we also all know that no prohibition in human history was ever successful, beginning with when God first forbade eating from that tree, as every prohibition sooner or later accomplishes the opposite from that which it sets out to achieve.

On the other side of the scale of moral deliberation stands the question of whether it is truly ethical to prolong the of those who no longer want it, i.e against their will using medical treatment

In former times, merciful doctors gave their excessively suffering patients an opiate overdose. Such a death is entirely painless and more certain than that achieved through use of other medications. When no merciful doctor was at hand, the patients could also help themselves to poisonous herbs or mushrooms in Godís apothecary, which teems with such commodities, though this is something I would disadvise because such dying takes too long and is too painful.

The most imaginative patients carried out their euthanasia entirely unnoticed, with the quiet aid of the murderous power of dehydration by reducing their fluid intake to the minimum. In a few weeks, it was all over. This procedure is completely painless, though the person gets very cold at the end.

Those patients only kept alive due as a result of the great achievements of modern medicine, who want to end their burdensome existence, forego all medical services as well as, of course, all pills.

By far most frequently patients euthanize themselves by means of an overdose of pain medication, which contains opiates. And those with greater willpower can simply stop eating and drinking, since food and drink are our main propellants without which we cannot function for very long. In India, the Jainists even viewed starving to death as a religious procedure, which would reward the starving with enlightenment right before the moment of their death.

All above described methods of euthanasia are always available irrelevant of any kind of legislation. For me, the right to euthanasia is unquestionably one of manís fundamental rights and freedoms. This is why I believe that its prohibition is erroneous and must be revoked. Death is a part of life, and so, in addition to the right to live, a person should also have the right to a gentle death.

Never before, has mankind held so many freedoms as it does today. However, with each passing day our freedom is shrinking. Now, weíre not even allowed to die, even if we have entirely justifiable reasons to want to. If people indeed have free will, they should also have the right to exercise it in keeping with their wishes.

I too am a proponent of the sanctity of life, that is, until a severe and difficult disease turns life into living hell, at which point it ceases being both life and sanctified. In this respect euthanasia, as the cessation of life which, in my opinion, is no longer life, does not go against the sanctity of life, but rather enables a professional and controlled painless dying and can therefore be an utterly appropriate and dignified departure from this life if said life is truly no longer worth living.

 

Translated from Slovenian by Jaka Jarc

 

 

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