I saw a poster as I was walking the streets of Wellington this week – a quote from someone in palliative care defining euthanasia, where the words “killing a person” were bolded – the point of course being that euthanasia is KILLING, with the subtext that voluntary euthanasia supporters pretend it isn’t so.
Well, I have no problem with that basic statement: of course voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide involves one person killing another person – or at the very least, doing what the dying person cannot physically do for themselves.
What struck me, though, is how the anti-euthanasia lobby – who always set up palliative care like it’s some blessed utopia where there is no suffering, merely a soft-focus Hallmark-card fading away into peaceful slumber eternal – just talk about KILLING KILLING KILLING as though there’s no context, no individual differences of opinion or viewpoint, no harsh medical realities in which some people can, of their own free will, weigh up continued existence vs. release from whatever is ailing them and find on either side.
What struck me is how, amidst the usual talk of “not playing God” which comes up during the euthanasia debate, the doctors who oppose it never deny having the power of life or death – obviously they have access to whatever might be needed to play God any time they feel like it.
They just want to enjoy having it and denying the use of it.
Yes, I know, I’m being harsh. But I feel fucking harsh when a bunch of medical practitioners, people sworn to do no harm etc, want to sit back and go “fuck your pain. Fuck your situation. Fuck your mental anguish in the face of inevitable agonising decline. We know better than you. We get to decide if your life has dignity. And we get to make that decision even for the doctors who aren’t a bunch of judgemental authoritarian wanks.”
The poster said it all: euthanasia is about killing a person, no more, no less. There wasn’t room to mention how many people who are so killed are in terrible unending pain and wish to end it. There wasn’t space to fit in any explanation about how many of the people who are so killed literally cannot carry out their own wishes, nor can their loved ones give them the mercy they have clearly, definitively expressed a wish for.
Yes, there are obvious issues with implementing voluntary euthanasia, there are balances to be made between respecting people’s wishes and ensuring those wishes aren’t manipulated or coerced. But that doesn’t change the fact that, besides killing a person, the push for voluntary euthanasia / assisted suicide comes from giving a shit about what those people want.
Blunt time again: maybe some of the spokespeople for palliative care should be a little bit cautious. Because with more posters like that one around, they might just start coming off like people with control issues and a Munchausen’s-by-proxy-esque fetish for glamorizing themselves through other people’s suffering.
Of course, there are many people who choose to go into palliative care, who decide that that is the way they want to live out their last days. Good for them.