The bodies of two elderly siblings has been uncovered in the area of Gowinna, Bulathsinhala, where the youngest of the two (aged 75) had supposedly ended the life of his bed ridden sister (aged 80) prior to ending his own. The police had confirmed this to be an act of mercy killing once discovering a suicide note to support it. Euthanasia is essentially the termination of the life of a person who’s suffering from an incurable illness in order to relieve them from pain. While the current position with regard to this topic remains unclear, it is important to look at how the legality of this deliberate termination of life may vary contextually.
Despite the opaqueness of the situation, attempts have been made in order to arrive at a decision. For instance, this issue was at the apex of discussion on a debating floor organized by the ‘Mid Country Psychiatrists’ which took place in 2017. Dr Priyani Ratnayake, a member from the proposing team pointed out that although ‘easy death’ tends to be a rather complex issue, if it’s a process intended to reduce retractable pain, it should then be legalized. One of its’ other members also pointed out that passive euthanasia however is in existence to ensure good medical practice, for when there’s no point in resuscitating a patient.
‘Old is gold’?
Certain countries around the world such as Netherlands and Belgium have now opted to resort to euthanasia as a viable method when lowering the growing elderly population. Whist it may be unseemly to discriminate individuals based on their age, as evinced above it is a known fact that the elderly would undoubtedly be affected the most through the legitimization of such a procedure. They, just as any other individual should have the right to live and die with dignity.
There are nevertheless those individuals who would prefer to end their lives the moment they come to terms with the fact that once diagnosed, would have to live with misery, decline and agony. Legitimization would enable the procedure to be carried out in a manner that is in compliance to proper regulation i.e. by giving heed to appropriate medical practice which ultimately enhances the ethical nature of the procedure together with the willingness of the individual.
Another salient resultant of legalization is the prevention of those events that may take place in secrecy or those that may take place in a rural landscape, such as the one which took place in the locality of Bulathsinhala. Had the procedure been conducted in compliance to its’ conventional specifications, the complexities associated with it could have been avoided effortlessly.
On the contrary, it is of vital importance that the relevant authorities keep such procedures in check whenever they do take place. For without which individuals would tend to take matters for granted and engage in acts that are inessential and improper. In the incident which took place in Bulathsinhala, the elderly woman was stabbed to death several times, before the man took his own life. Such atrocities would therefore be inevitable in the absence or proper guidance, hence placing society’s vitality under immense risk and jeopardy.
out of the frying pan, into the fire?
Young adults although boisterous and lively, often constitute mindsets that are constant roller coasters of emotions, which causes them to make defiant and incautious decisions that may result in unruly outcomes. Police statistics reveal that there have been more individuals within the category of 17-35 years of age who have ended their lives in comparison to those that fall within other age groups. Legalization of euthanasia would undoubtedly escalate its availability, thus further aggravating an already existing issue. In 2015, a 24 year old Belgian female who was suffering from depression was granted the right to euthanasia, despite the fact that she was otherwise perfectly healthy. Euthanasia should ideally be available to an individual who is terminally ill, without any possibility of being cured. Therefore as evinced in the Belgian case, the risks associated with it are limitless whilst the absence of proper regulation would make it uncontrollable, hence narrowing down any future prospect of legitimization.
the global stance
Active euthanasia was first legalised in Netherlands together with the introduction of a strict set of rules, such as the patient having to suffer unbearable pain, illness being incurable and patient being fully conscious when making the decision. Sources suggest that this has widened its horizons as people are comfortable now more than ever to discuss their issuess openly with various institutions and foundations. These foundations assist individuals to recollect their thoughts and contemplate their decisions. “Most of the people who contact us feel reassured by the information we provide and do not take their life away,” says Ton Vink, head of one such foundation.
Similarly, Belgium went onto become the second country to legalise active euthanasia. It is nevertheless rather exceptional for it has completely stripped off the age requirement, making it readily available for minors seeking to end their lives. Despite this, it is worthy to note that other factors such as the nature of the illness and future recovery are of paramount importance.
Whilst a majority of the states including Sri Lanka remain uncertain and quiet on the legality of assisted suicides, the domestic jurisdictions of Australia and New Zealand have condemned its’ practice and have pronounced it illegal.
Euthanasia is a highly sensitive topic which requires close assessment and careful deliberation. Its legalization would act as a pedestal for individuals to voice their thoughts, opinions and decisions, enabling them to engage with and obtain help from those with the requisite expertise and knowledge. Additionally, if an individual still wished to have their life to come to an end, not only would legalization respect individual rights and freedoms, but also the assure that conventional procedures and methodologies have been complied with. This ultimately diminishes the recurrence of highly controversial and unfortunate incidents such as that which took place in Gowinna, Bulathsinhala. However, a majority of Sri Lankan individuals are currently instilled with values and morals that vehemently oppose the very confines of euthanasia. Sri Lanka’s rich multiculturalism heightens such perceptions even more, thus doing little or nothing to uplift it from its evident peril.