The Right to Die

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Introduction

People have varied opinions regarding the controversial topic on the right to die. The issue has been evaluated from different perspectives, taking into account legal, ethical or religious, health, human rights, social, economic, and even cultural aspects. At the onset, the right to die was deemed to be synonymous with making end-of-life decisions or euthanasia (Math & Chaturvedi, 2012). As such, there are varied means or dimensions by which the right to die could be implemented, such as: “active (introducing something to cause death) to passive (withholding treatment or supportive measures); voluntary (consent) to involuntary (consent from guardian) and physician assisted (where physician’s prescribe the medicine and patient or the third party administers the medication to cause death” (Math & Chaturvedi, 2012, p. 899). The current discourse hereby asserts that people, especially those facing terminal and debilitating illnesses, have the right to decide to end their lives rather than live in physical, emotional, or psychological pain.

People Have the Right to Die

Proponents of the right to die assert that there are legal basis for the decision according to the civil rights of people (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 1999). In California, the state promotes the End of Life Option Act (EOLA) which allegedly took effect on June 9, 2016 and allegedly “allows for California residents, age 18 and older, to request life-ending medication from their doctor if they are suffering from a terminal illness and want to set their own timetable for their death” (Tinker, 2017, p. 1). Moreover, those who advocate the right to die argued that the decision to end their lives would be the most viable course of action to prevent burden to the family members, especially the care givers. As emphasized, “the caregiver’s burden is huge and cuts across various domains such as financial, emotional, time, physical, mental and social. Hence, it is uncommon to hear requests from the family members of the person with psychiatric illness to give some poison either to patient or else to them” (Math & Chaturvedi: Counterargument of euthanasia supporters, 2012, par. 1). In addition, proponents of the right to die also assert that this would provide greater opportunities for organ donation where the terminally ill person could have the chance to extend the lives of others for more worthy causes. There are a number of people who still want to live and in the waiting line for organ donations. As such, those with terminal illness but with healthy organs which are eligible for donation could help in extending the life of other people who need organ transplantation. In this context, these terminally ill people would not have died in vain.

People Do Not Have the Right to Die

There are still groups of people who believe in preserving life, regardless of the health conditions being faced. In societies with strong Christian or Catholic beliefs, ending life at the decision of the patient, the family members, or even the physician, counters the sixth commandment stating ‘thou shall not kill’ (The Bible Study Site, n.d.). As such, believers affirm that only God has right to decide when a person should die of natural causes. Moreover, the healthcare environment has already provided ways and means to alleviate physical, emotional, or psychological pain through palliative care. As emphasized, “palliative care is an active, compassionate and creative care for the dying” (Math & Chaturvedi: Arguments against euthanisia, 2012, par. 1).

Refutation of the Counterarguments

Those within the Christian faith who always believed in adherence to the sixth commandment could follow this teaching; yet, for millions of others who believe otherwise should be given due recource to choose the right to die, especially when the terminal or debilitiating illness leaves them to continue life in such a painful and remorseful condition. There is another law in Oregon, the Death With Dignity law, which allegedly legally allows people with terminal illnesses to resort to avail of the right to die (Tinker, 2017). From the statistics that were provided, “between June 9 and December 31, 2016, 258 people initiated the process, according to the report. One hundred ninety-one people were prescribed the lethal medication, of which 111 patients ‘were reported by their physician to have died following ingestion of aid-in-dying drugs prescribed under EOLA’” (Tinker, 2017, p. 1). Doing so provided these people with the chance to die with dignity. The move is also actually consistent with principles of palliative care. As learned, the objective of palliative care is to provide the patient with the health intervention that would alleviate pain and assist them to transition from life to death. As such, helping these patients who decide on taking their right to die option still falls within the realm of palliative care.

Conclusion

People who face terminal and debilitating illnesses should have the right to decide to end their lives rather than live in physical, emotional, or psychological pain. The right to die has been supported with legal, ethical, health, human rights, economic and socio-cultural bases. Society needs to see things from the perspectives of these patients and allow them to transcend to death in the most dignified manner possible.

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  1. Constitutional Rights Foundation. (1999). Bill of Right in Action.
  2. Math, S. B., & Chaturvedi, S. K. (2012). Euthanasia: Right to life vs right to die. The Indian Journal of Medical Research, 136(6), 899–902.
  3. The Bible Study Site. (n.d.). What does THOU SHALL NOT KILL in the Ten Commandments mean?
  4. Tinker, B. (2017, June 29). 111 people died under California’s new right-to-die law.
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