I remember traveling to Los Angeles with my mom to meet her grandmother. My mom told me that her grandmother was sick, but I never imagined how sick she was. When we arrived at her grandmother’s house, it was hard for me to believe that she was still alive. She did not move, did not blink, so I started asking questions. Grandma had been in bed over 20 years, she had paralysis. They had to bathe her occasionally, she was wearing diapers, and she lived out off of saline solution and a respirator. I knew that if she were able to speak, she would ask for euthanasia. Also known as assisted suicide and more loosely termed mercy killing, it basically means to take a deliberate action with the express intention of ending a life to relieve intractable suffering.
Euthanasia is the practice of ending a life in a painless manner. Many disagree with this interpretation, because it needs to include a reference to intractable suffering. In the majority of countries euthanasia or assisted suicide is against the law. Although terminally ill patients may not be capable to make that decision, euthanasia should become legal in California because, every human being has the right to decide about their own life, permitting euthanasia is the only compassionate response to their pain, and legalizing euthanasia will stop patients’ suffering.
Many people believe that terminally ill patients are not capable to decide whether they need euthanasia or not. People believe that patients are hallucinating or that they’re under medication and they don’t know what they’re asking for. I believe that any human being under any kind of pain or medications, is capable of recognizing if he’s suffering or not. Washington and Oregon are the only states that allow euthanasia, but there are strict rules as to who qualifies (Rudden). California should legalize it too. However, many doctors will recommend palliative sedation instead of euthanasia. Palliative sedation is the use of sedative medications to relieve extreme suffering by making the patient unaware and unconscious. Palliative sedation does not serve to halt or cure a disease.
Another method is used to deal with extreme pain is morphine. But morphine can’t do anything against esophageal cancer with the inability to eat or even swallow saliva. Anything swallowed is vomited back.The primary reason for allowing euthanasia is to relieve suffering. It is a myth that palliative and medical care can relieve all the suffering associated with the advance of diseases like cancer, AIDS, and motor neuron disease. Over 90% of people with terminal illness will endure their situation, but between 5 to 10% find it intolerable and request euthanasia (Rudden). If death comes without suffering, under the care of a physician and requested by an individual who desires peace and closure, what are the grounds for stopping it?
Every human being has the right to decide about their own life. No one else can feel what some else is feeling. Peter Yanez, my uncle, confesses, “A friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. She spent the next four years dying. At first she waged war on the cancer, attacking her own body with radiation and pills until she was left inhabiting something limp and unresponsive. Still, the cancer continued to grow inside her, replicating through her spine, shoulders, hips, pelvis, and liver. She watched as her body began to fail her. There were awful waves of pain, violent coughing, constipation, abdominal cramps, convulsions, and humiliation.
She had trouble breathing and walking. The sickness was overwhelming her.” I now believe that as a society we tend to mistreat terminally ill patients. My mom’s grandmother is an example. She could have died with dignity, if only someone could have assisted her death rather than let her wait, year after year, for the body to deteriorate enough to die. She decided that she had lived a wonderful, fulfilling life and that it was time for it to end. But her daughter did not want to let her go. Many people don’t have the chance to make a decision at all, or their doctor or family members influence them otherwise.
Permitting euthanasia is the only compassionate response to patients suffering. Sadly, many doctors consider death a curable disease. In “Euthanasia Is a Rejection of God’s Gift of Life,” Mathew Piercy an intensive care specialist confides, “Modern society and popular culture promote euthanasia as compassionate, when in fact it is merely the easy and unnatural way of dealing with difficult problems such as debilitating injuries and terminal illness. It is wrong to put such power over life and death into the hands of mankind.” Who says is it unnatural? Death is natural, and euthanasia is mercy.
We should understand that if a terminally ill patient is asking for euthanasia, there must be a big reason for him to ask. And that reason is pain. They’re asking for death not because they think they’re ugly, or because they feel depressed. It is the terrible and incurable pain that has made patients to take that decision. It is hard to imagine a person lying on bed for years, that’s not life. That’s dying slowly. Doctors or family can’t just tell to the patient to resist more. Instead, they should understand. Peter Yanez, my uncle, points out, “Dogs do not have many advantages over people, but one of them is extremely important: euthanasia is not forbidden by law in their case; animals have the right to a merciful death, and we don’t.”
Legalizing euthanasia will stop patients suffering. According to Lawrence Rudden, director of research for the Graham Williams Group, a public relations firm in Washington, “By providing terminal patients with the opportunity to die peacefully, under medical care and with loved ones present, the death with dignity act has prevented more than fifty-seven people from committing violent suicides during the past five years.” Some people fear that if we let doctors end the pointless suffering of terminal patients, the practice would quickly become the norm.
Soon depressed people would be demanding a right to die, our palliative-care options would begin to lag behind the rest of the civilized world, and our doctors would be transformed into stalking butchers. But that’s why the use of euthanasia should have some requirements. I believe that euthanasia is better than a violent suicide. Graciela Valenzuela, my grandmother, confides, “Dying is not a solution.” Well, in some extreme cases it is. There are people who have developed lung cancer, pelvic cancer, bladder cancer, and more. Believe me; from what I’ve read those diseases are impossible to control pain situations. There’s no medicine or doctor who can control it. The only solution is dying, and make the pain go away, because nothing will help at all.
Terrible deaths and suffering have occurred because of doctors, government and families’ selfishness. If California legalizes euthanasia, terminally ill patients could die with dignity. I know it is hard for families to accept that one of their relatives want to die, but it’s better to avoid pain than your own tears. Erika Velazquez, my mother, reveals, “Euthanasia should be legal, but I wouldn’t approve any of my familiars to use it.” An individual has the right to choose their own life. A patient should not live their lives in a drugged state of mind. People suffering are usually never living naturally hooked up to machines. The doctor, family, and patient feel it’s the right choice to make. No one should have the right to say whether or not someone should live or die. They are not the ones in miserable pain. Terminally ill patients have the power to commit euthanasia.
Piercy, Mathew. “Euthanasia Is a Rejection of God’s Gift of Life.” The Right to Die. 29 June. 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. http://ic.galegroup.com/.
Rudden, Lawrence, “Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide Should Be Legal.” The Right to Die. 18 May 2000. Web. 29. Nov. 2012. http://ic.galegroup.com/.
Valenzuela, Graciela. Personal interview. 24 Nov. 2012.
Velázquez, Erika. Personal interview. 23 Nov. 2012.
Yanez, Peter. Personal interview. 22 Nov. 2012.