Joe Darby quite rightly views state-legislated euthanasia as unacceptable (Letters, 15 October) but says it avoids recognising individual needs and “if it is someone’s wish to die then that has to be taken into account in a compassionate society”.
Firstly, on euthanasia we must be clear. If your intention is to cause death because of a judgment made concerning the quality of a person’s life then euthanasia is what you have in mind.
If your intention is something else entirely – for example, to treat the patient’s pain, or to spare him or her some burdensome procedure – your choice will not be euthanasia, even if it may hasten death.
Secondly, we do not have a “right” to die. Many people now speak of such a thing but without the proper understanding of the terminology they use. A “right” is a moral claim. We do not have a claim on death. Rather, death has a claim on us!
We do not decide when our life will end any more than we decided when it began. Much less does someone else – a relative, a doctor, or a legislator – decide when our life will end. None of us is master over life and death.
Finally, what we do have a right to is proper care. It is never “care” in any sense of the word, to terminate life, even if that life is full of suffering. True “compassion” leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear.
Proper love for another person ought to lead us to a patient and willing “suffering with” that person. When pain cannot be removed it must be borne and it is precisely then that those who love the person most can demonstrate their presence to them in their most needy hour.
This “suffering with” is the true and literal meaning of the word compassion.