Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Quebec medical student explains why he opposes euthanasia.

The following letter was written by David Benrimoh and published on July 1 in the Montreal Gazette newspaper under the title: Euthanasia prevents people from finding meaning at the end of lifeThis letter was edited from its original version.

I oppose the legalization of euthanasia.

I have never experienced what it is like to see a terminally ill family member in pain; as such, I do not for one moment pretend to judge or criticize the choices or beliefs of patients or their families. Instead, I want to offer a philosophical argument against euthanasia and in favour of alternative practices, such as expanded access to palliative care. ...

Viktor Frankl
In my opinion, our society has become preoccupied with pain and suffering and preventing it at all costs. It is of course logical and just to prevent and ease pain and suffering when we can, and to develop and use medications and technologies that can do this. But is death preferable to pain? In a video shown to us in class that was not directly related to euthanasia, Viktor Frankl — philosopher, neurologist, psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor — spoke of the extreme suffering he and his fellow inmates were subject to in the concentration camp, and of how, even in the midst of all this suffering, he was able to find meaning in choosing his own attitude to his situation, and in thinking of the love he bore his wife, who had been sent to another camp. He is not the only example of a person who, through extreme suffering such as that caused by the Holocaust, was able to create and find meaning.

In Quebec, euthanasia is being considered for people suffering from a terminal illness who are still able to make competent decisions. And yet these are the very people who would most likely be able, with the right support, to find or create meaning at the end of their lives. This is why I am against euthanasia: because allowing it is saying that we are willing to sacrifice our potential to find meaning in order to end suffering; that we have allowed pain to conquer the pursuit that most defines our humanity.

The best counter-argument to all this is that we as a society have no right to demand that people keep on living in terrible pain when they, as competent adults, would prefer a quick death. My response is that this choice is not the one we are faced with. We have, as has been pointed out by many doctors, technologies and medications that can allow us to manage pain; we have psychologists, chaplains and other guides that can help people find and create meaning in their final days. All of this is brought together in the discipline of Palliative Care, which aims to help patients find the peace and dignity they want at the end of life, on their own terms. These technologies and approaches are not perfect, of course, but I have seen them work.

We should therefore, as a society, be putting our efforts into improving end-of-life care; Palliative Care has proven to be less resource intensive than other end-of-life care, so it is a sustainable option. Even though this process may be draining for patients, doctors, nurses and families, I believe that the beauty and power of the human experience of creating, finding, and holding onto meaning is worth it.

David Benrimoh
First-year medical student at McGill University.
Côte-St.-Luc

3 comments:

Winston said...

"Viktor Frankl In my opinion, our society has become preoccupied with pain and suffering and preventing it at all costs. It is of course logical and just to prevent and ease pain and suffering when we can, and to develop and use medications and technologies that can do this. But is death preferable to pain? In a video shown to us in class that was not directly related to euthanasia, Viktor Frankl — philosopher, neurologist, psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor — spoke of the extreme suffering he and his fellow inmates were subject to in the concentration camp, and of how, even in the midst of all this suffering, he was able to find meaning in choosing his own attitude to his situation, and in thinking of the love he bore his wife, who had been sent to another camp. He is not the only example of a person who, through extreme suffering such as that caused by the Holocaust, was able to create and find meaning."

That's no different from saying "he dealt with it, he fought destiny until the bitter end, therefore everyone else should be forced to.

That's unbelievably cruel and totalitarian.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Winston, it doesn't say that at all and you know it.

Nobody is trying to force anyone to live in pain.

Winston said...

It was implied, Alex. Tony Nicklinson could only be (legally) released from his prison by starving himself to death.

If he was "lucky" enough to have kidney failure, he could have committed suicide more humanely by having his dialysis ceased.

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