Out of 80 countries analysed, Bangladesh came out second worst in “end-of-life care,” just above the war-torn, brow-beaten Iraq. Almost amusingly termed the “quality of death,” our great nation was found to be greatly lacking in palliative care -- care given at the end of one’s life, “an approach that improves the quality of life through the prevention and relief of suffering by the means of treatment of pain and other problems.”
Abak Hussain, yesterday, in his opinion piece “Not-So-Golden Years,” covers this extensively. To paraphrase him: As a culture that prides itself on its ability to encourage close-knit families, unlike the West, where kids and their respective families stay on with their parents to look after them, this is not expected.
This is interesting, to say the least; but not very surprising. With proper health care too expensive and our hospitals and hospices in dire condition -- the ones run by the government are drowning in woefully high numbers of patients and the private ones are getting away with murder, literally, on a daily basis -- the issue isn’t one about culture.
It is undeniable that Western cultures, as “fast,” as radical, as they may be, at least most of them, provide an organised method of health care that leaves very few of their inhabitants behind.
So, if our elderly, who are suffering this much, and are in need of health care their family members can’t afford, would it not be better to just … put them out of their misery?
Okay, okay. Wait. Hold on to the trigger. Give me a second chance to redeem myself. Let us backtrack, take it slow. Easy now.
Euthanasia, or assisted suicide, is the practice of ending someone’s life to relieve their pain or suffering. There are different forms of euthanasia, with voluntary euthanasia, done at the request of the patient, being legal in four countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.
Involuntary euthanasia would, of course, be one where a patient’s life is ended without his or her explicit consent. This is more easily justifiable as being a form of murder and, as a result, is legal nowhere in the world. For the purposes of this debate, let us stick to the former kind.
Imagine a scenario which is not hard to imagine: A man in his 90s lies wretchedly dying. He has a form of terminal illness, incurable, or curable, but gone past the stages when anything could’ve been done, and he is on life support, barely clinging on to life. He is perhaps in a coma, or perhaps he can barely speak. Words escape his mouth like dusty whispers.
He is being “taken care of” at a private hospital. The daily cost is in the thousands, being footed by his family members -- sons and daughters -- who, of course, love him, and do not wish to see their father wither away into nothingness from the great man he once was.
Every day, this once great man, endures excruciating pain. He is fed through his nostrils, through stoic tubes carrying tasteless fluids. Every day, his family descends into increasing amounts of debt. His sons and daughters, for whom he worked his entire life, can now barely afford their children’s private school education. By the time he dies, of “natural causes,” the damage has been done.
In that situation, is it really that hard to imagine that his life would’ve better served the world had it been extinguished at the right time?
This may sound cruel; maybe it is. In a world dynamic where we’re constantly fighting for the rights of people who have none or close to none of it, this sort of objective callousness may seem, to some, glaringly out of place.
But euthanasia, where someone’s life is ended for the betterment of all those involved, including the one who is dying, is a far nobler cause than most may realise. It does not boast even an iota of cruelty, and it doesn’t even go anywhere near the concept of murder.
This is done out of the choice of the patient, pure and simple. Yes, this utilises a quasi-utilitarian principle, where the needs of the many outweigh the few. But when it comes to voluntary euthanasia, even the patient in question has given his or her consent. Is this really such a radical concept to grasp, embrace, and celebrate? Is this really a moral conundrum?
Somehow, we have collectively decided that allowing death to occur, no matter what, is taboo, brutal, cruel, immoral, undoable.
However, one may interject, citing the aforementioned example: What if he/she’s in a coma? Then he won’t have the cognitive ability to give consent.
Yes, that would be true. But, objectively speaking, even in that situation, since the only thing that exists of that great man is the body that carried his spirit, it would be merely the act of cutting the final cord that had been forcefully tethering him to the physical world.
And, on the flipside, if one is allowed to prolong life by using medicine and other technology, shouldn’t they be allowed to do the opposite, namely, to end it, when and if they choose? What purpose does it serve to prolong misery in a world that is overflowing with it already?
This is even more relevant in a country such as Bangladesh, where, as evidence suggests, the old and the sick suffer enormously because of our already pathetic health care system. Until, at least, our government can ensure proper health care for each and every one of our citizens, whereby they are given the best treatment possible no matter what their financial status may be, assisted suicide may be a kind form of easing pain.
To kill is not a blanket term for a negative act; one can be killed, softly, and with kindness.