You may think me macabre when I say I find the Straits Times heading for an interview on euthanasia in the Nov 5 edition well, rather amusing!
Perhaps amusing ain’t the appropriate word. What I’m trying to say is I find the headine — Helping the dying with living — and the whole current thrust and rush to make euthanasia a part of our lives wryly ironic.
Ironic because most have forgotten that all of us are dying, in various degrees, depending on our age, our genes, our circumstances — from the day we were born.
Shouldn’t the efforts of humanity be focused on all who are dying to live, and that must surely be everyone? We all die to live, like in we “die” to have a Rolls Royce, Madonna’s success, to carry a Coach hand-bag and to eat in three-star Michelin restaurants like they are Kopitiam food courts.
It’s true that some of us take a heck sight longer to die than others — even when we suffer from multiple ailments — and so we weigh on the lives of those for whom death is someone else’s affair, not theirs.
So for this group who unashamedly takes such a long time to die, some bright sparks have been arguing, alarmingly ever louder, that euthanasia is designed for them, so that they can go with “dignity and without distress”.
Note however, as the good Dr Rosalie Shaw in the ST interview states categorically, euthanasia “is an act with the intention to kill”, no more, no less, so let’s not glorify this greatest cruelty of man to man, made worse because it’s dressed up as for the good of the victim.
The grounds on which Dr Shaw opposes euthanasia are both professional and personal, she says. As a doctor taught to heal or cure, the ‘intent to kill’ is anathema.
She believes most terminally ill people — just like all of us born to die, even if we don’t acknowledge it (to die, I mean)–don’t really want to die. I agree. That’s a no-brainer, really. As Shakespeare said 500 years ago:
“Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison’d in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world.”
Even those who have faith in another world still cling tenaciously to this one that we know — or there won’t be Lourdes and the continuous chase for medicines and miracles to prolong life, rather than cut it short.
Dr Shaw’s parting shot in the interview is that ‘a society that allows euthanasia devalues life’.
To which I must add: “a society that allows euthanasia also devalues its medical profession” because which decent doctor would want to prescribe death as the ultimate cure for his patients?
Certainly not among the dozen or so doctors I know. Certainly I believe not among all the doctors who have taken the Hippcratic Oath.
Meanwhile for those of us who can, let us eat and drink.. “for you don’t know when you can’t,” as one wise old man once said to me when he saw me picking over my food because I don’t eat things that are too gamey, boney, fat, lean, sweet, salty, oily, hard, soft, overdone, underdone, yucky to look at.. u get the drift.
While I’m still as picky over my food, I’ve learned to appreciate more deeply what I can eat, as the truth and wisdom of the old man’s words dawned on me when I watched a friend fight every mm of her way against death.
Although she cldn’t keep down her food in the last weeks of her life, she nevertheless asked for all her fav foods and drinks. She ate and drank everything with gusto, never mind if every morsel and every drop came back up within minutes, as she gagged and gasped for breath.
Yet never once did she say she wanted to die or turned away the food and drinks. Euthanasia wasn’t for her. Neither is it for me or anyone I love. Thank you very much.