Some terminally ill people experience excruciating pain for prolonged periods of time before they die of natural causes. Thus I strongly believe that euthanasia must be legal and accessible for people who need it. Torturing sick people for no good reason is cruel and inhumane.
My maternal grandmother died of cancer in 1994 at the age of 66. The last few months of her life were horrifying. Two months before her death she experienced so much pain that she begged to be buried alive. Again and again she told her caretakers, “Bury me already.” My grandmother was Catholic. Even though her religion forbade euthanasia, all her cherished beliefs were thrown out of the window as soon as she became too sick to wait for her beloved God to finally kill her. By then all she wanted was to finally suffocate in a coffin.
Two weeks before her death my grandmother was unable to speak. She appeared to no longer recognize her family members, it seemed like she didn’t even know where she was or what was happening to her. The only thing left to her was constant and unbearable pain.
I was born in 1992. Thus I have no memories of my grandmother. Listening to my mother talk about my grandmother’s death, I have gotten the impression that the whole experience was traumatizing for my mother.
My grandmother spent the last few months of her life mostly at home with my mother and my aunt taking care of her. Taking care of a bedridden patient is a lot of work, but normally in itself it is not that terrible. But this time there was a catch. My grandmother was experiencing constant agonizing pain. She whined and complained all the time. When taking care of a bedridden patient, you have to change their clothes and bed linens, deal with their urine and feces, feed them. You have to touch and move them. But every time my mother touched my grandmother, she complained that being moved makes the pain worse. Of course, doctors couldn’t help and painkillers were ineffective.
My mother and grandmother didn’t have a particularly close relationship in the first place. Merely losing a family member with whom she had a lukewarm relationship wouldn’t have hurt my mother so terribly. Instead the main problem was the utterly horrifying way how my grandmother died. A few people are sadistic sociopaths and can enjoy the opportunity to observe how somebody else experiences what is essentially torture. But for a normal person it is traumatizing to spend several months in a close proximity with a person who is hurting so much. More importantly, every time my mother had to touch my bedridden grandmother, she complained about how being touched or moved makes the pain worse.
My maternal aunt died of breast cancer in 2017 at the age of 51. Two weeks before her death she could move around with the help of a wheelchair, she could independently change her clothes and get to the toilet, she could eat and even prepare meals for herself. Thus my mother who was taking care of her sister only needed to bring her bags of groceries and help with miscellaneous chores at her home (my aunt was living alone).
Of course, the last few years of my aunt’s life were hard enough (chemotherapy is no fun), but she never wished to die sooner, largely because she went from being able to still live somewhat independently to being dead in just a few weeks. She had a breast cancer and she was lucky to get metastatic tumors in her lungs, those caused her to suffocate rather quickly. Hence she could avoid months of being bedridden and in unbearable pain.
Of course, it is ridiculous that I have to use words “lucky” and “metastatic tumors” in the same sentence. But, since we live in a society that refuses to allow terminally ill patients to die painlessly, dying of cancer without the terrible suffering that my grandmother had to experience is actually an example of being lucky.
Euthanasia is a necessity. In my opinion, there is no room for debate whether it should be legal or no. Instead, people, at least those of us who are not sadistic, can only discuss specific details. Which patients should be eligible to ask for euthanasia? Which doctors should be allowed to approve these requests? Who exactly and how should perform this procedure?
Details certainly do matter. After all, we wouldn’t want sick people feeling pressured by their family members or doctors to agree to euthanasia when in fact they would prefer to live longer. But the fact remains that euthanasia is a necessity and should be accessible for those who really need it.
Opponents of euthanasia tend to argue that no person should die sooner rather than necessary. Personally, I perceive this argument as rather ironic. In my family people tend to die of cancers. Having heard about my grandmother’s miserable experience, I have thought about what I will do if I ever get a cancer diagnosis.
I consider myself a hedonist, and I don’t seek any higher meaning for my life. I’m willing to live only as long as my life remains enjoyable, and I would be willing to endure physical pain only as long as it is temporary and I would have reasons to believe that my condition is likely to improve in the future. For now, my life is still nice, and thus I do not wish to die, but if I were terminally ill and in severe pain, I would definitely prefer death sooner rather than later.
In my eyes, having access to euthanasia is a form of insurance. A terminally ill person can feel safe knowing that if at some point they become bedridden and suffer too much pain, doctors will end their suffering and help them die painlessly. This way a terminally ill person does not have to commit suicide sooner while they can still move their limbs out of fear that if they wait too long they will become bedridden and incapable of ending their own suffering.
Personally, I do not fear death, but I do fear the kind of fate my grandmother experienced—bedridden, unable to commit suicide, in pain, begging to be buried alive, yet with nobody who could alleviate her suffering. Thus, if I ever get terminally ill, I will probably have to commit suicide sooner rather than later, because in a society that forbids euthanasia hesitating for too long can result in months of unbearable suffering. Once a person does become bedridden, committing suicide becomes rather hard.
Of course, I do not know my future, I cannot tell for sure how I would act in circumstances that I have never experienced. For now I am merely thinking about “what if” scenarios after having witnessed the deaths of my family members. And who knows, maybe I will starve to death long before I get a cancer, because the humanity has decided to collectively change the climate on this planet, which is likely to result in crop failures.
If Christians believe that only their God should be able to decide when some person who wants to die actually dies, they are welcome to be masochists and endure whatever misfortunes life brings them. But they should have no right to use the legal system in order to torture other people who might even not believe in such a sadistic god.