Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Social issues.A lot on the agenda (2) Euthanasia

The world of 'same-sex marriage' is an hurly burly at the moment. There would seem to be little doubt that we will find ourselves in some months/years with a ready acceptance of the reality that marriage will not be defined by (opposite) gender.
Marriage will be available to all citizens. Any two people who choose to commit themselves to each other for life will be able to do so. I am generally sympathetic with this idea.
But when a group to which I belong was advised to talk to the Pro-Euthanasia  lobby I was some what tentative.  
What was being suggested was, not that we should agree with the pro-euthanasia lobby, but that we should understand their methodology of lobbying.
I don't fully accept this idea, and I feel so nervous about euthanasia that I can't readily identify with that cause.
Although, when my mother had a stroke some years ago, I felt my views about euthanasia change almost over night....I didn't want to end her life but we were really challenged by the quality of life she may or may not be having.
I came to understand in the time that followed that the few years that she had remaining, although diminished in quality, were nevertheless good years. It would have been a serious error to cut them short.
This is what worries me most about euthanasia. Not that people shouldn't control their lives. But that we can easily get it wrong. We are so obsessed by diminishing pain that we think that getting rid of pain is the only thing that matters...when it is not.
It is also, for example, important to allow time for human beings to reconcile. Sometimes this will require just living with pain a bit longer than we would prefer. Long enough to allow forgiveness to take its important course.
BUT, pain is not an easy thing to live with; and it is difficult for must of us to understand the level of pain that is being talked about. We are not just talking about  someone having what might be euphemistically called "a low pain threshold" but people who have constant physical pain which can only be alleviated by intensive medication, if at all, and often with gross side-effects.
What is probably worse is the psychological pain.
One prominent media commentator notes of his  suicide attempt many years ago that the reason he attempted suicide was because the emotional pain became unbearable.
Such things are difficult to assess but easy to imagine.
I have not answered the question about whether euthanasia should be legalised. And don't intend to.
I agree with commentators who say the focus should be on individuals and not on protecting doctors ( a not unimportant consideration); but in a world where lines are drawn in all sorts of curious places it is not easy to conclude that there is anything like agreement.

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