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The patient feels unbearable pain.

Euthanasia advocates stress the cases of unbearable pain as reasons for euthanasia, but nearly all pain can be eliminated and – in those rare cases where it can’t be eliminated – it can still be reduced significantly if proper treatment is provided. It is a global scandal that so many people do not get adequate pain control, but killing people is not the answer to that scandal.

We have a right to commit suicide.

Probably the second most common point pro-euthanasia people bring up is this so-called “right.” But what we are talking about is not giving a right to the person who is killed, but to the person who does the killing. In other words, euthanasia is not about the right to die. It’s about the right to kill. Making euthanasia legal takes rights away from those who are killed and gives them to doctors, or even to the state, where no power of attorney has been given to a trusted family member. The argument for the “right” to suicide is also based upon the “Personal Autonomy” philosophy which maintains that WE own our bodies/lives, which stands in stark contrast to the Biblical view that we belong to our GOD.

No one should be forced to stay alive.

Agreed…but being permitted to die of natural causes is not the same thing as actively killing a suffering person. For example, a person of sound mind refusing an operation or chemotherapy is choosing to live their last days by their own rules, avoiding complications and side effects. They are not choosing death…but to enjoy life as long as they have it (which is all any of us can do whether we are terminally ill or not).

Neither does the law nor medical ethics require that “everything be done” to keep a person alive. Insistence, against the patient’s wishes, that death be postponed by every means available is contrary to law and practice. It would also be cruel and inhumane. There comes a time when continued attempts to cure are not compassionate, wise, or medically sound. That’s where hospice, including in-home hospice care, can be of such help. That is the time when all efforts should be placed on making the patient’s remaining time comfortable. Then, all interventions should be directed to alleviating pain and other symptoms as well as to the provision of emotional and spiritual support for both the patient and the patient’s loved ones.

The scenario is complicated when the patient is not of sound mind or is unable to communicate. We have advanced directive documents that are designed to give patients a way to indicate their desires in case they lose the ability to direct their care following a catastrophic event, such as surgery complications or an accident.  Too few people read or consider such forms carefully, and sometimes the forms are too vague to be effective.  For example, a form may read that “no medical intervention” should be performed in case of a certain diagnosis, such as brain death.  The first problem most often encountered is that nutrition and hydration (food and water) may be deemed medical intervention, especially when administered via tubes.  A feeding tube or intravenous needle may be considered medical intervention by some and not by others. Secondly, the very diagnosis of “brain death” is in question by many in the medical community.  There have been people that have woken up from long term unconsciousness in recent years that have recovered their lives. Lastly, the patient might change his or her mind and want medical intervention, but he or she may not be able to speak up / may not have updated his or her directive.

We believe it is necessary – even essential – to be our own best advocates by discussing end-of-life issues with our families, writing our desires clearly, and reviewing them regularly. As we move forward, we must remember that the most important part of living a full, natural life span is maintaining family and community relationships, looking out for each other, and providing care as needed.

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