Euthanasia, a relatively new and highly controversial concept, is accepted and functional in some states in the United States of America and Australia as well as in some European countries.
These nations identified its needs and designed plans, rules and regulations, and adopted them after community participation and consensus. It is therefore imperative that everyone familiarize themselves with the concept of euthanasia. This word comes from the Greek words meaning “good death”.
If it’s about death, then what’s controversial about it? The dispute arises in the manner of happening and not in death itself. Death is a natural phenomenon while euthanasia is an assisted procedure. This concept alone has the strength to shake the fundamental foundations of ethics, law, human rights, family structure and basic understanding of right and wrong with potential for abuse. considerable.
Therefore, this topic should be approached slowly with the participation of the community.
The decision to accept or reject it must be made knowingly. The obvious resemblance between euthanasia and suicide cannot be ignored. Both are measures of the premature embrace of death. Suicide is voluntary while euthanasia is physician-assisted.
Suicide is a manifestation of emotional surge regardless of age, health, and pre-existing illnesses, while euthanasia is a preplanned, physician-assisted product of informed decision by both family and patient.
The question arises as to the necessity of such a procedure.
The need arises in people with incurable diseases, cancers or bedridden elderly people, unhappy with life and looking for a gracious end to their pain and suffering, where any medical intervention appears as a mere prolongation of their life and their pain.
Among malignant cancer patients, there is a growing voice among them for a painless exit. Euthanasia applies to this very population. As the incidence of malignant cancers is increasing in Nepal, where awareness, familiarization and acceptance is a process that takes time, this concept needs to be introduced into the Nepalese society.
Euthanasia can be both active and passive – active when something is introduced and passive when no intervention is done to resuscitate. In Western countries, these patients have access to what is called a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form, which is an informed choice. Here, patients are responsible for all their medical decisions, and they can also make their decision for future medical treatment when they lack the ability to make a choice as the disease progresses. They can also designate a person who can make such a decision on their behalf.
In Nepal, a person’s treatment decision is not entirely their own, it is a collective effort of the family.
Therefore, the entire population should be aware of such a procedure. It can be seen as the right choice, the choice of a well-planned painless death.
The procedure gives an informed person a choice to embrace the inevitable after proper execution and necessary requirements in a painless manner.
It is a worthy exit for people who undergo painful and expensive treatment in vain. A debate may arise as to their choice against societal norms for a natural death. To start this debate, it is necessary to introduce the concept and sensitize the community. When the community is involved in all aspects of decision-making and all steps are taken to remove all doubts and achieve full consensus, a legally binding procedure can be introduced that is least likely to be exploited. .
This concept is decisive, and its introduction at any time is likely to be all the rage.
But awareness is key and opens the door to healthy discussion. The opening of the procedure is long, but talks can be initiated. Even developed countries where almost everything is free are not quick to accept it. Countries that already have a functioning system have done so after a decade of deliberation. Australia introduced it with temporary approval, as the community is still debating whether to accept it.
Nepal needs to sensitize the community, and if and when community consensus is available, it should make laws related and relevant to local customs and beliefs. The concept poses an ethical dilemma of right and wrong, so it requires a long, tedious process of discussion and deliberation.
It should be understood that resourceful individuals with an informed choice could venture into countries where it is legal, resulting in a loss of income.
Sufferers may opt for illegal means to obtain euthanasia, which could leave painful memories for loved ones. Medical personnel, for humanitarian reasons, might want to help these patients, but do so under threat of persecution. Doctors risk their lives by relieving the pain of others. Therefore, this concept should be introduced to see if the community is open to such a concept and procedure and if the community perceives the need for it.
Retaliation can be expected when the concept is introduced, but it is necessary to do so. Advances in medicine and technology have improved the diagnosis of incurable diseases and led to a long life. But once inflicted with these diseases, painful and expensive treatments and poor quality of life are inevitable. These measures only prolong the difficult lives of patients and have economic repercussions for families. Euthanasia can provide a well-informed exit by understanding the hopelessness of the case. This allows the family to prepare, plan and say goodbye with dignity.
As these measures have enormous potential for exploitation, well-formatted criteria must be established.
There should be legal provisions to prevent persecution of providers by relatives.
As this is a long and tedious journey, the awareness must start now.
A version of this article appears in the April 7, 2022 printing of The Himalayan Times.