I got back to Japan last night, so I’m feeling a bit like a zombie today. I knew it would be hot when I got back, but not this hot! It has been a horrible shock to my system.
Since someone brought this topic up recently, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the case of Tony Nicklinson, a courageous British man who died in hospital last week. Mr Nicklinson suffered a stroke in 2005, and following that, he became paralysed from the neck down. Talking through a computer that he controlled with his eyes, he described his life as a “living nightmare” and said that he wanted his doctors to help him to die. His family supported him because they could see how miserable he was. Because he was unable to use his body, Mr Nicklinson asked the British courts to say that it was okay for doctors to help him to end his life. The case went on for several years, and it was big news in the UK. Everyone sympathised with Mr Nickinson, but many people thought that it would be dangerous to change the law to allow doctors to kill their patients. The biggest worry is that pressure might be put on old people to end their lives even when they don’t want to so that relatives and/or the government do not have to pay for their care. The judge in the case said that although he had a lot of sympathy for Mr Nicklinson, only the government has the power to change the law. When he heard that, Mr Nicklinson felt that his only option was to starve himself to death, so he started refusing food. He caught pneumonia a few days later, and he died last week.
As many people pointed out, if Mr Nicklinson had been an animal, any loving owner would have had him put down by a vet. Many people think it is strange that we show more compassion for our pets than we do for our fellow humans. The problem is that many old laws are no longer suitable for our modern society. Nowadays, doctors can keep people like Mr Nicklinson alive for many years even if their quality of life is very poor and they no longer want to live. I think I mentioned this before, but many British people go to a place called Dignitas in Switzerland when they want to end their life because it is not illegal for others to help them in that country. Of course, they can only do this if they are very sick and have no chance of getting better. This was not an option for Mr Nicklinson because he was not able to move.
Most people in the UK would like to have the right to choose to end their own life if living became unbearable, but the government is too scared to change the law because of all the problems it will cause with, among others, religious groups who believe that only God has the right to take a human life.
So what do you think? Should it be okay for doctors to help a person who wants to end their life because of a terrible illness? Should we all have the right to choose how and when we die if we get sick?
Look forward to hearing your thoughts.