Monday, September 7, 2009

Euthanasia court

Further to my last writing on euthanasia, I need to add something I missed. Euthanasia is a modern term and people attach their own meaning to it. In fact, dying voluntarily is common throughout the ages. I read about some ancient customs still being practiced in tribal communities. When a person got very old and became a burden to the village, he would go away into the wild to die voluntarily. Relatives in the village would see him off and throw a big farewell party. This happened in many cultures. Two I heard, one was in the arctic when the aged left for the ice pack alone, and the other in the tropic where the person went into the jungle alone.

I missed an important form of dying voluntarily which should fit between suicide and jihad. That is sacrifice. From history, and recent news, many people died voluntarily for others. This happened all the time during wars where soldiers died to win battle, or to save comrades. There were also many heroic stories during emergencies and natural disasters. When people died for others in vain, we would also call it suicide. When people died and killed at the same time, they may either be jihad or hero, depending which side you are on.

On the more specific area of euthanasia, medical technology does play a major role. Modern medical technology can take lives peacefully. It can also prolong lives. A prolonged life is a debatable issue. Some live on with only biological functions like vegetable; some may barely live a normal social life like going to dinner parties; only a few are still productive and can continue to contribute to the community. Depending on where you sit, you may stand for euthanasia for certain people.

The present debate on euthanasia is very complex. It touches on many subjects, and the right to live and die is only a small part. Most of the criticism are on the extreme situations: how euthanasia could be abused for murder, getting rid of the burden of the aged, getting rid of unwanted citizens. There is also a strong and rigid religious interpretation that men should not do god's work of creation and destruction of life. In fact, humans have been continuously creating and taking lives for millions of years.

We have seen many euthanasia cases in court. Not only were those assisted in euthanasia sometimes being charged, but many persons would wish to exercise their right to die with dignity and thus challenge the administration. The reality is that many people have already exercised such right themselves with or without the sanction of the authorities. This has led to many situations where people died in pain or violently, or simply with a mistaken mind.

That is why I think a euthanasia court may be necessary. Instead of ending lives, it could be saving lives. The prerequisite is for a change of mind to clearly acknowledging the right to die with dignity and good reasons. With this important principle established, proper laws could be enacted for a legal framework to be set up for examining applications for euthanasia. The meaning of euthanasia could be extended to any person wishing to terminate his life voluntarily. While most cases now in dispute are those with terminal illness, there are many not disputed cases simply done unnoticed. A properly established court could examine and authorize euthanasia cases based on medical, scientific, humanitarian and legal grounds. Jilted boyfriends/girlfriends, those too heavily in debt, seeking revenge or suffering from depression who wish to die could apply for euthanasia. The court could judge whether euthanasia should be exercised or any other remedial and corrective actions should be taken. This will kill two birds with one stone. While genuine euthanasia cases can be properly addressed, suicide cases when brought to the open would likely be resolved with professional help.

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