Updated 02 May 2012

The hour of my death

You are in unbearable pain and it's not going to get better. You are ready to die. But will they let you?

The issue of euthanasia is in the news again after deaf Belgian twins, who were also going blind, were granted their wish to end their lives.

Because life is sacred. So the law says. And the Bible. Anyone helping him escape this hell would be accused of murder. Because euthanasia* is seen as the thin edge of the wedge of people playing God. Because we have to bear our earthly sufferings to the last dregs. Because the Hippocratic Oath states that a physician should "practice and prescribe to the best of his/her ability for the good of the patients, and to try to avoid harming them".

  • Does someone have the right to choose death?
  • What are the ethical issues at stake?
  • Can criteria be determined to justify assisted suicide?
  • What does the future hold?

  • What sort of society do we want to be part of?
  • What sort of people are we?

  • The patient must be mentally competent at the time they make it clear that’s what they want.
  • The patient must want to die and be in irreversible and unbearable pain.
  • Palliative care no longer is of much help, or the patient is no longer interested in it.
  • The patient must request euthanasia several times, and must have the right to change their mind right up to the end.
  • The patient must preferably do it by themselves.

  • Oregon (since l997, physician-assisted suicide only);
  • Switzerland (1941, physician and non-physician assisted suicide only);
  • Belgium (2002, permits 'euthanasia' but does not define the method);
  • The Netherlands (voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide lawful since April 2002 but permitted by the courts since l984).


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