Whose life is it anyway?

The debate on Euthanasia, or mercy killing as we know it, is going on and going strong. We all agree that dying is bad. Life is considered the greatest gift of the divine, living is considered the golden job. So obviously, dying becomes bad. Something we would avoid, something we would find appalling. We dread it. We hate it.

Then how can one wish to die? How can one decide to end her life? Wanting to take one’s own life can therefore be called absolutely stupid! How can one wish to give up what is considered the most sacred and precious of all? Thus, deciding to die, is condemned universally. The Church calls it sinful. Doctors as a group seem to be confused, for some defend it by placing the choice of the patient above all, while others refute it in the name of their duty. And people, well, they just don’t seem to get it.

The one thing that needs to be made clear in the very beginning is that Suicide and Euthanasia are two different concepts. While suicide is a shameful act, marking cowardice and giving up, though some people disagree, (people love disagreeing, but so do I 😛 ), Euthanasia, is choosing for myself an easy and painless death which will relieve me from unending suffering and the false illusion of a normal life people force on the person.

Euthanasia is a very widely misunderstood term. It does not mean ending my life because I failed my exam, or my boyfriend cheated on me, or I couldn’t pay the loan I took. I know that the suicides committed by Indian farmers because they could not pay back the loan to RBI was a sad happening, but sad is what it really was. Suicide and Euthanasia is not the same thing. Euthanasia is choosing an easy death, in order to escape the painful and excruciating one when I am already doomed to die. Sounds very Satanic, but that’s what it is. When I commit suicide, I give up my life. When I ask for Euthanasia, I end a miserable existence. Suicide entails a sense of loss. Loss of opportunities, loss of a chance, loss of possibilities. But Euthanasia entails a sense of freedom. Freedom from pain, freedom from meaninglessness, freedom from negativity. How can two situations, which differ so drastically in their fundamental connotations, be ever thought of as parallels? Suicide is a crime inflicted upon oneself, Euthanasia a painkiller.

Let’s look at some examples, for they make everything easy to understand and more agreeable.

Imagine a 13 year old girl. How would her life sound like? School, friends, cycling, probably a hobby class, dancing, laughing, happy. Quite regular and normal. But what if the picture is different. Instead of all these happy things, come injections, scalpels, medicines, life-support, hospitals, surgeries, bed sores, seizures, inability to move and talk. Or maybe another example. A young, high-spirited nurse working in one of the posh hospitals of Mumbai, was attacked by some sick, creepy man, who ruined her so bad, that she has been in a vegetative state for the past 37 years.

The first example is the Tracy Latimer case. She was killed by her own father, who confessed that he wanted to relieve her from her suffering. The mother said that she was relieved when she found Tracy dead. Sounds so cruel, right? But, is it? Tracy Latimer did not have a life that was ended. She was a breathing body, incapable of movement or speech and had no chances of claiming for herself a normal life. Was it not better that she died than suffered immense pain and unending suffering for a long period of time under the illusion that it’s a sacred life! But the courts disagreed. Tracy’s father was imprisoned for life.

The second case is of Aruna Shanbaug, who was attacked by a ward boy who asphyxiated her with a dog chain and sodomized her. This incident left her blind, with critical injuries in her brain stem, spine, leaving her incapable of movement, and devoid of consciousness, which is the very essence of life. Aruna’s friend demanded Euthanasia for her, which was denied by the Government of India.

Now tell me people, were Tracy and Aruna ‘living’? Was it too bad to give them an easy and painless death instead of seeing them inch towards an excruciatingly painful end?

In the end, it all boils down to these questions: ‘Who decides?’; ‘Whose life is it anyway?’ It may seem difficult to find an answer to these questions which is both logically correct and morally right. But shouldn’t it be really easy? Shouldn’t it be the right of the person to decide to end his life? If I have a right to live, is it so unreasonable to have a right to die?

Whose life is it anyway? The person’s. And in case where the person is incapable of making a choice for herself, it rests in the hands of the closest people to choose. And their choice should then be the one which would relieve the person from the unbearable and unending suffering they are in.

It still might sound bad, because we have been conditioned into thinking of death as something BAD. But isn’t a humiliating life without even a minimum degree of independence and full of suffering and pain one knows would never cease, much worse than death? The religious institutions may declare it as sinful, or as against the wish of God, but how can a painful and miserable existence be called a sacred life? And as far as it being against the divine wish is concerned, that argument doesn’t hold much water because God is an entirely different concept that is itself being hotly debated.

Hence, it’s not what “people” seem to think. Euthanasia is NOT Suicide. It is not cowardice. It is not wrong. It is the person who is suffering. It is the person who is “living”. It is the person who will be affected the most by it (obviously, because he’ll die). And therefore, it is the person’s life. Not of the religious bodies, or doctors, or God, or people. Death is inevitable. When we all have to die after all, why not have a choice to at least die with dignity?

Khushi Vijayvergiya

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2 responses to “Whose life is it anyway?

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