Ocean Park’s most famous panda, Jia Jia, was put down last month. She was so famous because she was the world’s oldest panda in captivity.
The park said her health had been getting worse in the weeks before she died.
Two days before she died, she stopped showing any interest in food or water. She could hardly walk, so she was given medicine to stop the pain. Jia Jia was 38 years old. That’s about 114 years old in human years.
I was sad that Jia Jia died. I was also grateful that Ocean Park cared for her so well right up until her death. But her death prompts questions about whether euthanasia – deliberately killing or withholding medical treatment to cause death – is right or wrong. I think it’s wrong. Medicine should be used to save people’s lives, not to end it.
Euthanasia means health care professionals have fewer opportunities to try and discover new treatments and cures.
I respect the laws of nature. I don’t think anyone has the right to end someone else’s life.
From the editor
Thank you for your letter, Erica. It certainly was sad to see that Jia Jia was euthanised after being so old and so sick. Euthanasia – deliberately killing or withholding medical treatment to cause death – is still illegal for humans in many countries. But there are a growing number of people who support the idea. In the past, medicine has been focused on saving lives. But one has to ask when is a life not worth living.
If an animal is in pain and there is no way to help them, we put them out of their misery. We end their suffering as an act of kindness. When animals need humans to survive, like pets or animals in a zoo do, they have no choice but to accept whatever care we give them. To put them through needless and useless suffering would be cruel.
Yet, if we do this for animals, why would we not do it for humans?
There are many things to think about around this topic.
As medicine advances we are able to postpone death almost indefinitely. Bodies can be kept warm and breathing by machines. So it is often not a simple decision of killing someone, but of deciding that if they are unable to continue without the help of machines, and there is no hope of them recovering, then we have to let them go. For families in this situation, constantly waiting for a loved one to “die” is a special kind of hell. Apart from the personal pain they feel at not being able to grieve because the person is not yet dead, the financial cost could ruin a family for generations.
If the person being kept alive was in constant pain, and again, with no hope of recovery, some believe they should not be made to suffer indefinitely. But if that person is unable to give consent, then someone needs to take the decision for them. It’s an awful decision to have to make.
Personally, I know that when my time comes, I will not want to be kept alive. So I have let my family know this and hopefully if anything were to happen they would be able to make the decision for me.
As I said, many things to think about around this topic. It would be interesting to hear what other readers have to say.
Susan Ramsay, Editor