The right to die has long been a controversial debate across the globe. As much as I understand where people who support the legalisation of euthanasia are coming from, I, to a large extent, believe that doctors should not play God when it comes to something as delicate as a human life. Below are my reasons for my belief.
To begin with, the right to life is the most fundamental of all our rights – it recognises that every human life has intrinsic value. I strongly believe that every single individual is of equal value, regardless of age, race, social status or their potential to achieve. One is not more valued by leading a comfortable life, nor is one less valued by being bed-bound or terminally ill. We exist, not just as human bodies with a heartbeat, but as conscious beings that should be valued all the same no matter what. Hence, allowing euthanasia suggests that there is a point where a life loses its value, which inevitably undermines society’s respect for life.
One of the biggest reasons to support euthanasia is the will of the patients. But how can we be certain, without a hint of hesitation, that this is what the person really wants? How can we be sure that they are not pressurised in any way, morally or otherwise? For the patients’ families and carers, not only is caring for a severely disabled or chronically ill person emotionally devastating, it is also physically demanding. A paralysed person in a vegetative state is one example. He or she may is dependent upon their carers for every aspect of their physical existence and daily needs. Thereby, it is not unlikely that such vulnerability and disability mean the patient would feel pressured into choosing death over life, regardless of whether this pressure is real or imagined.
There is also the financial cost. The medical costs of terminally-ill and severely disabled people can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. For cancer patients, the final months are also the most costly. This is another reason patients may feel they are a burden on their families and on society.
The most pivotal point, from my perspective, is that the decision to die may be made in the state of depression that makes a person feel that his or her life is pointless. With negativity clouding their judgement, they could make these decisions on a whim. Even if they seem certain, how can we be sure that this will still be the case several months down the line? Death is irreversible.
On a related note, doctors are humans, and humans can make mistakes. What if a person chooses to die on the basis of a diagnosis that is later proved wrong? What if a person is told that he or she will only have one more year to live, when in reality they could have years left? As long as that possibility exists, I do not believe we can justify euthanasia.
None of the above is to deny the unimaginable pain and chronic suffering of people with permanent illnesses, but I believe that the best option is to care for them while continuing to respect the value of their lives. No one should feel that death is their only option.
However, if my concerns of the legalisation being open to abuse by selfish families are addressed through the formulation of strict rules, then I do think euthanasia could be legalised.
All in all, euthanasia is a highly controversial topic that covers issues ranging from ethics to religion. I believe that mercy-killing should not be legalised in Hong Kong and that no one should be given the right to choose death over life.