Rehan Khan

The birth of this Earth dates back to billion of years, according to the big bang theory. Initially, the Earth was a composition of natural gases and fluid magma but the super-heated conditions cooled down by degrees with the lapses of time. Human being is the power house of intellect with divine artificial knowledge that is constantly experiencing the phases of evolution. This sophisticated process gave shape to different societies that learnt the ropes of art to forge ahead against the changing nature of society.

 The members of those primitive societies spun a web

Rehan Khan

of interaction through the process of socialization. The concept of families with strong bonds of relation evolved that became the basic unit or the building block behind the structure of whole social fabric. The customs and norms found roots, the social stratification became evident and a social order with a loose control emerged as a consequence. This primitive society was the product of a long chain of processes through which it went under past.

The birth of biology was celebrated with the first incident of man handling the nature of world for his survival. The primitive society was an immature form that also had immature knowledge of the world. In this context, the knowledge of biology was also limited to the understanding of that primitive society. Illnesses and ailments were treated by indigenous operations using herbs and shrubs that were not the standard for the rest of the societies. The injury sustained to any part of the body would herald the inevitable death. The ruthless recipes of hunting the herds of animals were taught to youth with pure dedication who would translate their art with sheer precision. The trickle of blood from the body of any individual would culminate in the loss of his life. In a net shell, the lack of knowledge pertaining to biological treatment was the active factor behind the precedents of total destruction of society instigated by a sweeping wave of contagious virus or any other disease.

The primitive life has transformed into an organic solidarity that has given dimension to scientific and technical knowledge. The shackles of superstition and myths have been sloughed and the phenomenon of rationalization has emerged after the events of industrialization and enlightenment. The rational grounds of every dimension to knowledge have led to several breakthroughs in recent history. In the same breath, the knowledge of biology has also reached to its zenith. Biology has reached the pinnacles of discoveries and has explored different corners of social life by pushing back its frontiers.

Diving into the mainstream of discourse, we can make an analysis of social norms and values that have been under the process constant transformation. The ethics of society are subject to change with the development of science that is dealt in the fold of bioethics. The bioethics deal with the ethics that is revamped and reprocessed to satisfy the needs and wants of human being following a development in the field of biology. The biological advancement has led the intellect of human to think over the ethics that are obsolete and require some amendments for the welfare of mankind. This idea has led to the emergence of euthanasia that has become a center of debate in recent table talks of intellectuals.

Euthanasia is a directed attempt staged with an express design to relieve the pain and suffering of a person on the face of terminal illness/ailment.  A person, who is sustaining a severe pain and will ultimately culminate in the loss of life, is euthanized in order to relieve his pain in advance. This practice is widely debated in various countries and some of the countries have given legal status to its exercise considering its desirability. With all the wisdom and intellect of its critics, I am struck by the power of surprise on account of how can this practice be a point of criticism that is merely an attempt to diffuse the pain and cries of mankind in pain? Can the pain of human being be belittled on account of some handful critics adhered to their primitive ideas? Is the practice of conforming to the primitive norms of society is much more sacred than the relief of a person in times of dire need? Has the full-blown wisdom of man undermined the current values of any dying life? The answer is a big No.

If a dying animal with a spear on its body is euthanized to relieve its pain, how can we forget the sanctity of a human life that is left in the ocean of pain with no mercy in times of dire need? The biological advancement has made human capable to cure multitudinous illnesses. The chronic ailments like cancer and Tb are also cured by biological treatment. A slightest of pain in the head to the most severe agonies in body, biology has carved out the possibility to cure them. But, many a times the knowledge of biology becomes answerless. Certain ailments after reaching the advanced level don’t show flexibility to treatments and their resistance results in the loss of life. Many of them unfold upon us a story of painful end. This pain becomes unbearable in a situation when treatment of doctors becomes a formality due to the inevitable death.  In this case, when the death is on the cards and the pain is unendurable, one can justify the direct intervention to euthanize that person for good.

Euthanasia can be classified into three types depending upon the consent of the subject to be euthanized. One is the voluntary intervention, in which the subject is ready to get underway the process. Second is the non-voluntary in which the consent of subject for the process is missing and the third one is the involuntary in which the subject flatly rejects the idea of any form of euthanization.  Furthermore, two procedural methods can be undertaken to complete the process of euthanasia_ active and passive. The active euthanasia is a procedure through which a lethal substance is injected to relieve the pain. It includes the overdosing of medicines, the excess injection of insulin detrimental to health and furthermore. The passive euthanasia is that procedure in which the due medication is withheld till the loss of life.

After navigating through the technicalities of this issue, we can now explore the possibility of its legality across the world. The involuntary euthanasia (be it active or passive) in which the subject remains adamant to taste the natural death with terminal illness is not justified on neither rational or any ethical grounds_ nor it is given legal status in any country, but the voluntary and non-voluntary types with passive methods are point of discussion and demand a comprehensive dialogue and intellectual debate. The non-voluntary euthanasia is one that is done without the consent of subject or its acquaintances.  A child born with severe defects and will hardly win the race of life and can be damaging to the health of mother must be put to death in early stages. In this case, it is necessary to consider the fact that the child is not living a normal life his death is inevitable, thus passive euthanasia becomes justified. A person who has sustained a brain break down can be euthanized on the face of his ultimate death.  But, the practice of euthanasia is accepted on passive methods, which means only the due medication is withheld without the injection of lethal substance. This same case is applied to the above two examples.

The voluntary euthanasia with passive method is also justified considering its benefits to humanity.  A person harbouring the terminal disease of Cancer In its advanced form can be euthanized to relieve his pain by withdrawing his medication. The pain suffered by a person in bone cancer is beyond the stretch of our Imagination, and its advanced condition denies any recovery. If the board of doctors, after considering the condition of patient and the painful ordeal, recommend the intervention of passive euthanasia with the consent of patient, no ethical or religious barriers come behind their action.

The religious doctrines since the origin of societies have played an important role in shaping ethical standards. There is no major religion that allows the legality of active euthanasia in any shape (voluntary, involuntary and non-voluntary), and the passive involuntary euthanasia. But certain religious doctrines show some flexibility to passive euthanasia having voluntary and non-voluntary form.

Buddhism is totally against any form of euthanasia and declares it an act of homicide. The religion of Christianity is bifurcated into two sects in this issue. Protestants argue for the legal status of passive euthanasia, remember that the involuntary is unacceptable in all religions so it is out of argument in religious debate.  The religion of Judaism is also divided into two denominations in this issue, one giving legal status to passive euthanasia. The religion of Islam also has some schools of thought that give allowance to the passive euthanasia on account of ethical considerations.

The ban of active (voluntary, involuntary and non-voluntary) and the passive involuntary euthanasia is still in operation in all countries and will remain in operation but the legality of passive euthanasia is disputed and has knocked the doors of intellectual debates in recent times. Countries like Belgium, Netherland, Luxemburg and some states of USA have given it a legal status and some other countries are considering this issue with utmost delicacy. It is just the matter of time to determine the future of euthanasia but one can declare it ethical to adopt those norms that are compatible with the modern biologically advanced world. The conformation of norms and values shouldn’t be a hurdle in our way to serve humanity at our best in near future.

The writer is Chief Editor of GB Times. 

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  1. I appreciate the writers efforts to present a very sensitive issue that has attracted serious debates amongst the intelligentsia and common people around the world, particularly in Europe and North America.

    Life is our most cherished asset that has been bestowed upon us. We live now or never. We all want to live a fulfilling life in desirable conditions. This is how we humans are made, we always want to be fortunate.

    But however, this rosy picture can be hampered by many unforeseen incidents while going through the to and fro of life. Certain ailments are so detrimental (such as bone morrow or blood cancer) that the quality of life becomes worse than death. Only under these circumstances the patients voluntarily and involuntarily see euthanasia as the only way out of terrible conditions. This is however an oversimplification of a much complicated issue.

    Ethical/legal and social aspects to this issue have become the topic of debate more than the medical aspect. Ethically it can never be encouraged to take the life of a human being no matter what the medical conditions may be. No law around the world allows it.

    The social dimension of this issue is very interesting but controversial. The key reason for highlighting this issue particularly in Europe is that most of the European countries are welfare states which offer healthcare to the public from the taxpayers money. Euthanasia is encouraged by many circles for certain reasons. Firstly, any patient with severe medical condition will obviously need expensive medical care, leading to consumption of more resources per head of these patients. If the disease is fatal, it is quite logical to support Euthanasia as to why spend too much on someone who is about to die? Secondly, in these countries, the proportion of aging population is very high. Spending too much to gain on the few weeks, months or a year of life is supposed to be not sensible. The result, voluntary euthanasia is encouraged.

    The exercise of euthanasia in developing countries is a different story, where majority of the people are living below the cruel line of poverty and they literally live in a hell of life. Probably, they readily would prefer death over life. Increasing number of suicide incidents(bombing and otherwise) is sufficient to testify.

    Euthanasia may be a medical or ethical issue by nature but to me, it is deeply an economic and social issue.

  2. Thanks for the appreciation. It is imperative to discuss this issue which is often ignored but has significant importance in our social life. It involves not only the financial aspects but also the social values, sensitivities and the religious facets.

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