The attitude and approach toward euthanasia have always been complicated since the discussion of euthanasia itself can become extremely controversial. While some people perceive it as a suicide, others believe that euthanasia is the only way out of a difficult, unsolvable, and painful situation. Another problem arises when the public and the media confuse two different definitions, namely, “palliative sedation” and “euthanasia”. I aim to argue that euthanasia is an important part of modern society and care because it respects the choice and life (as well as the perception of death) of citizens.
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As Ten Have and Welie (2014) point out, palliative sedation “is not an isolated intervention but a symptom control strategy within a palliative care trajectory”, whereas euthanasia is an intervention, which only desirable result is the death of a patient (p. 125). Furthermore, while during palliative sedation a physician focuses on relieving the symptoms that can hardly be controlled, he or she has to act differently when preparing for euthanasia. The physician “selects types of drugs and dosages that are lethal by all objective measures” (Ten Have & Welie, 2014, p. 125).
It should also be noted that physicians and nursing professionals have a different approach to euthanasia depending on patient symptoms. For example, if a cancer patient had had to live with severe pain and provided written requests for euthanasia or PAS, more medical professionals agreed that they would agree to it (Kouwenhoven et al., 2013).
At the same time, only a minority of interviewed professionals agreed that they would provide euthanasia or PAS to a patient with chronic depression (Kouwenhoven et al., 2013). Furthermore, the majority of physicians and nurses would disagree to provide PAS or euthanasia to a patient who was “tired of living” (Kouwenhoven et al., 2013, p. 274). As can be seen, euthanasia is perceived differently in different situations: with the presence of severe pain, physicians tend to view it as “mercy”, while mental conditions are regarded as “insufficient” to euthanatize a patient.
I believe that this approach is right, although it should be applied to different cases individually. With euthanasia, we as professionals show respect to the patient’s wish to end their life and cease sufferings he or she has to endure. Neither the government nor the Court should decide whether a patient has the right to die because if they both have such control over one’s life and death, liberty and freedom of choice become meaningless. Of course, euthanasia can be seen as wrongdoing from a religious point of view, but since it is not obligatory and only possible with a patient’s request at hand, it remains to be a private choice that should not be perceived as a violation of religious beliefs. If a patient is religious and chooses euthanasia, he or she may perceive it as a reunion with God, not a suicide.
One of the fundamental human rights, the right to life, cannot be understood as an opposition to euthanasia because dying and death are also parts of everyone’s life whether we want it or not. Therefore, the aim to die to cease sufferings and pain that are incurable or uncontrollable should be perceived as implicit parts of the right to life. In most cases (if it is voluntary euthanasia), the patient’s decision to die does not violate anyone else’s rights, even though it will lead to grief and mourning among his or her family. Still, natural death evokes the same feelings but is not considered a controversial issue.
Kouwenhoven, P. S., Raijmakers, N. J., van Delden, J. J., Rietjens, J. A., Schermer, M. H., van Thiel, G. J., & Weyers, H. (2013). Opinions of health care professionals and the public after eight years of euthanasia legislation in the Netherlands: A mixed methods approach. Palliative Medicine, 27(3), 273-280.
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Ten Have, H., & Welie, J. V. (2014). Palliative sedation versus euthanasia: An ethical assessment. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 47(1), 123-136.