Oddly enough, I have never been a detractor of euthanasia. I feel nothing but sympathy for those who are in pain and wish not to prolong their existence on earth. True, one may question their right to snuff out their lives themselves, especially in the religious context. But then again, who are we to judge their pain and suffering? How do we know that they have not fought their way to where they were before their deaths? Can we look down on them for not cherishing life? Does cherishing life actually mean living?
The very basis of euthanasia lies in free will. I choose to end my life, therefore I will. But Terri Schiavo, the woman at the epicentre of a controversy in USA, has no such will. She has lain in a coma for the past 14 years, having suffered from brain damage. She is not brain dead, nor is she hooked up to any life-support systems. The only tube that goes into her body is one that feeds her with all the nutrients that she needs. And therein lies the problem.
Her husband has requested, and granted, for her nutrients tube to be removed, which will lead to her eventual death in about two weeks. He believes that she would not have wanted to live this way, forever tied to a tube that feeds her. He thinks that she would rather die.
In the other corner, her parents are fighting him, arguing that she is not brain-dead and is still responding to their words. They want her to live, they think she should live. They opine that she still has emotions and can feel pain, and that removing the tube would cause her dehydration suffering that would have befallen a normal person.
The dispute has been discussed in court roooms, politicians’ statements, the White House even. But are these the right parties to decide what to do with this woman’s life?
If I were ever in her shoes, I would hope that someone in my family would have enough knowledge and understanding of me to decide if I were to go or stay. They would have known how much I cherish life, how hateful I am of being a burden to someone, how much of a fighter I would like to be, how much dignity I would like in my death. They would have done what’s right, unfettered by their own wishes and other hindering factors such as money and selfishness.
But of course, that is an ideal situation. Poor Terri does not have the luxury of a family deciding for her because her own family has been torn apart. And as the details get murkier and murkier (husband already has a family with his girlfriend, parents are hankering for a slice of the settlement pie the husband received), it becomes harder and harder to judge who has the most unselfish reason.
Update: Terri Schiavo has died.