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Pros and cons of legalizing euthanasia in Ukraine

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukraine is now on the verge of reforming the Civil Code - a significant document that regulates various spheres of life. The new Civil Code includes both potential same-sex marriages and legal euthanasia. But if constitutional changes are needed for same-sex marriages, it is much easier to "approve" euthanasia through parliament
22:26, 24 February 2021

Open source

After all, committing suicide is not prohibited by law. The document is not yet on the website of the Verkhovna Rada, but the Judicial-Legal Gazette notes that it is proposed to consider the issue of legalizing passive euthanasia and assisted suicide, taking into account the practice of the European Court of Human Rights.

That is, passive euthanasia (orthanasia) can be legalized - disconnecting the patient from devices that support the work of organs. In this case, it is not he himself who asks for the termination of support for the patient, but his relatives, if the patient is in a state of irreversible coma. This was the case with American rock musician Tom Petty in 2017. He was disconnected from life support when Petty's brain stopped showing signs of activity.

Active euthanasia, or "good death" from the Greek, involves giving the patient medication to help him die. It is divided into euthanasia itself (when a drug that causes death is administered by a doctor) and doctor-assisted suicide, when the patient himself carries out the procedure for ending life, but under the supervision of a medical worker or with his help. The involvement of a physician in this case may be limited to the issuance of a prescription for drugs that cause death.

From an ethical point of view, supporters of euthanasia do not see a significant difference between it and orthanasia - anyway, someone helps a person die. Only with orthanasia, the decision is made instead of the patient, and with euthanasia, he himself gives informed consent. In Ukraine, both the first and the second are prohibited. And orthanasia can be interpreted as "failure to provide assistance to the patient, which led to his death or other serious consequences." The punishment for this is provided for in Article 139 of the Criminal Code and provides for the restriction of liberty for up to 4 years or imprisonment for up to 3 years, followed by deprivation of the right to hold certain positions or engage in certain activities.

But should the practice change?

The main argument for euthanasia is that a person should have a choice in answering Hamlet's question - to be or not to be. Sometimes, due to circumstances, he cannot die on his own, but he firmly made such a decision.

Supporters of euthanasia say that taking a person's life at his request is not violence. The absence of violence is due to the presence of the person's desire to cause his death. But the legislative systems of some countries, including Ukraine, classify such an act as premeditated murder.

However, euthanasia as a humane way to end the suffering of a patient has already been legalized in Austria, Israel, Spain, Canada, Colombia, the Netherlands, the USA, France and Switzerland. By the way, Portugal joined this list at the end of January this year. In these countries, euthanasia is used only in the case of an incurable disease that causes unbearable pain. But in Belgium and the Netherlands they went further and resort to this way of ending life with moral suffering, mental illness, or simply when a person is tired of life.

True, in the Netherlands there was a precedent when a person who sought euthanasia was never helped. A girl named Noah Pothoven survived a gang rape at the age of 14 and asked one of the clinics to help her die. But, according to the laws of the country, a patient under 17 years old had to get the consent of his parents, and Noah was refused. After several unsuccessful suicidal attempts, the girl stopped eating and drinking. A few days later she died in agony. This tragedy, which occurred in 2019, received wide publicity and once again drew attention to the problem of euthanasia.

So what is considered unbearable torment - purely physical suffering or mental suffering too?

The lawyer Yana Trineva argues in an interesting way. She says that the current progress in the development of medicine (in comparison even with the twentieth century) is playing a cruel joke with a person. After all, the current possibilities, for example, of radio and chemotherapy, allow a patient with oncology to reach the fourth stage of cancer and the terminal state. But at the same time, they cannot completely cure such a person, just as they cannot deprive him of suffering.

In a sense, a person is "lucky" if he manages to jump out of a window or cut a vein. Those who do not have the strength or ability to do this are doomed to suffer.

"Thus, in fact, today medicine in the described situation does not save a person's life, but delays death - getting rid of suffering. Therefore, the question of legalizing one of the forms of deprivation of life at will is objectively appropriate today," Trineva is convinced.

The second argument for euthanasia is not just an opportunity to make a choice and commit suicide in any way, but to do it with dignity, in a civilized manner, in the circle of relatives and friends, or after saying goodbye to them.

At the end of 2019, on the Kyiv Bereznyaky district, an elderly woman with cancer, who had long suffered from unbearable pain, committed suicide in front of her son. She asked him to bring something, and her son was literally a minute away, and when he returned, he saw his mother jumping from an open window. It is unlikely that such a death can be considered acceptable in a civilized society.

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This incident, by the way, made an impression on the MP from the Servant of the people party Geo Leros. After this tragedy, he announced that he plans to submit a bill on euthanasia to parliament within a year.

There are more arguments against euthanasia. And the first of them lies in the religious plane and presupposes the exclusive right of God to dispose of human life. For Ukraine, this can be a really serious argument, because 72% of the population of our country, according to the Razumkov Center, consider themselves to be believers.

The Christian Church strongly opposes euthanasia. Metropolitan of the UOC Anthony (Pakanich) calls on the state “to ease the plight of ordinary people, to help them cope with the problems caused by the crisis, and not to push them to commit suicide, even if it is“ legal. ”And the patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Svyatoslav, proposes to make life easier with medical drugs - they say, the current doctors have enough.

“Pope John Paul II called euthanasia“ false mercy. ”But from a moral point of view, this is murder, when we deliberately and voluntarily stop human life,” the head of the UGCC is convinced. The second counterargument makes a human factor adjustment. Doctors can be wrong when assessing the severity of a person's condition and signing him a death warrant. This is a very common argument "against", which does not make sense to discuss, since each specific situation should be considered separately. And the opportunity to reduce everything to one denominator or one algorithm for determining the severity of a patient's condition is simply absent.

The next argument is whether the will of a person to die can be correctly interpreted in all cases. Especially when it comes to a person who suffers not from a bodily, but from a mental illness. Citing this doubt, opponents of euthanasia refer to the story of 29-year-old Dutch woman Aurelia Browvers, who voluntarily passed away in 2018. As noted, euthanasia is legal in Aurelia's homeland, so her death was sanctioned by the state. Only the woman was not terminally ill: she was allowed to commit suicide due to a severe mental disorder.

"I am 29 years old, and I decided to voluntarily leave this life. I made this decision because I have many mental problems, I suffer unbearably and hopelessly. Every breath I take is torture," Aurelia herself said.

Doctors hesitated to consider Aurelia's case. And, obviously, even despite the positive solution of this issue, they did not have a common opinion.

"Aurelia Browvers is a very young woman. This makes it difficult to make a decision, because in such cases you take the life of a person who could live for a very long time," psychiatrist commented on the situation. ... Doubts as to whether a person really wants to leave life, and does not act impulsively, being influenced by some thought or idea (to make life easier for loved ones, for example), can really take place.

As well as counterargument number four, which is often found in relevant forums: comprehensive palliative care should be an alternative to "mercy killing." Actually, this echoes the words of the cited Anthony Pakanich above: well-equipped hospices will help to avoid euthanasia. But note that now, according to the Ministry of Health, there are 1.5 million people living in Ukraine who need palliative care. And, let's be honest, current situation is far from always provided to them in full.

The last word "against" is especially relevant for Ukraine - corruption. The executive director of the Center for Civil Liberties Olexandra Romantsova in her public speeches notes that since Ukraine is a very corrupt state, euthanasia in it will cover up ordinary killings for useful reasons. For example, when it comes to inheritance, the seizure of property and real estate of a lonely and sick person.

"Thanks to euthanasia, it will become much easier to kill someone - you just have to pay the right people. Until the issue of bribery is resolved in Ukraine, euthanasia should not be legalized. We are still far from the level of European countries. And mentally people are not ready for this," says Romantsova. And, unfortunately, such reasoning can also take place - along with medical error.

Perhaps, legal assistance to a person who wishes to die should be provided after solving a number of problems not related to medicine, including corruption and unfair justice, which occupy a prominent place in this row.

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