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The pro-euthanasia case is compact and quick The importance of stories in society easy to make: It focuses on a terminally ill, seriously suffering, competent adult who gives informed consent to euthanasia and bases its claims to prevail on the obligation to respect that person's right to autonomy and self-determination and dignity.
The case against euthanasia is more complex and time-consuming to establish. It requires placing euthanasia in a much wider context that takes into account, among many other considerations, what its impact would be, not only in the present, but also in the future, and what protection of vulnerable people and society demands.
Euthanasia involves a clash of two important values: Pro-euthanasia advocates give priority to autonomy; anti-euthanasia proponents to respect for life. Respect for life is not just a religious value as pro-euthanasia advocates argue. All societies in which reasonable people would want to live must uphold respect for life and at two levels: Even if legalizing euthanasia were viewed as not contravening the former, it seriously harms the latter.
Both the pro- and anti-euthanasia sides in the euthanasia debate are trying to persuade the public to affirm their stance. So how are they presenting their cases to the public? We form and support or reject the shared values on which we found our society, in part, by creating stories that we tell each other and buy into in order to create the glue that binds us together as a community.
So the pro-euthanasia case relies on "bad natural death" stories - stories of the extreme suffering of some terminally ill people who die a natural death - and characterizes and promotes euthanasia as an essential-to-provide kindness and its prohibition as cruelty.
Anti-euthanasia advocates often counter these stories with "good natural death" ones of people dying naturally and peacefully, in the presence of those they love, feeling that they have had a completed life.
But there are also some "bad euthanasia death" stories which support arguments against legalizing euthanasia. One, by journalist Guilia Crouchgives an account of the following facts.
The woman patient had dementia. A woman doctor put a sedative in her coffee as a prelude to euthanizing her without telling her of the sedative or her plans for euthanasia, the doctor said "because she did not want to cause her [patient] extra distress. While being injected with the lethal drug, the woman woke up.
She struggled and the only way the doctor could continue with the injection was by asking the woman's family to help to restrain her, while she continued with the injection. The woman's case notes recorded that she had said several times in the previous days, "I don't want to die.
However, the chair of the review committee wants the case brought to court to create a precedent to enable other doctors to lethally inject people with dementia, without fear of legal repercussions.
So what can we learn from this story? Even if we believe that euthanasia is not inherently wrong, its risks and harms to vulnerable people - those with disabilities, the elderly and the fragile - outweigh any benefits. It's hard to imagine a more extreme form of abuse than helping a doctor to euthanize an elderly relative by restraining the "loved one" who doesn't want to die.
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