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This is a selection of thoughts on ***ASSISTED SUICIDE***
Unfortunately, German students did not participate in this exchange that took place in April and May, 1997. The letters you are about to read are written in the English language. Enjoy!! 

Kerstin Otto, TAC 

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Computers can enrich your life - but they can also snuff it out! 

Last fall, the newspapers carried the story of the first legal case of assisted suicide in Australia. A 66 year-old man who suffered from terminal cancer read the message on his laptop screen, then hit the appropriate key which started the lethal injection. 

The new law in Northern Territory, one of five states of Australia, requires the following circumstances for assisted suicide:
a) the patient must be in constant and severe pain;
b) the patient must consult three independent doctors, one of which must be a specialist in the respective field, another must be a psychiatrist;
c) nine days have to pass between the formal request and the actual assisted suicide. 

Reactions to this case have been manifold. A spokesman for the Catholic Church called it "a day of shame" for Australia. Groups who fought to legalize assisted suicide said the patient made the right choice. In a letter to politicians the patient had described how his illness had weakened him and made him a burden on his friends. "Had I kept a pet under these conditions, I would have been sued," he wrote. He called on politicians to continue to give terminally ill persons the opportunity to end their lives. As he wrote this, efforts were under way to declare the law in Northern Territory invalid.  ************** 

** What is your opinion on this issue? Do you think your religious beliefs influence your opinion? 

**What are the laws regarding assisted suicide in your country? Are you familiar with any assisted suicide cases? If so, briefly describe the circumstances surrounding the case. 

**Under which circumstances could you imagine asking doctors to help you end your life??? 

**Is turning off life-support systems the same as ACTIVELY helping someone to die as in this case? 

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German version: 

Ein Laptop beendete sein Leben.

In Australien hat erstmals auf der Welt ein Mensch sein Leben legal durch aktive Sterbehilfe beendet und damit eine heftige Diskussion ausgeloest. Der 66jaehrige Patient litt an unheilbarem Krebs und betaetigte selbst eine Taste an seinem Laptop Computer, woraufhin ihm ein Drogencocktail injiziert wurde und er starb.

Die legale Sterbehilfe wurde moeglich, seit im australischen Northern Territory, einem von fuenf australischen Bundesstaaten, im Juli 1996 ein entsprechenden Gesetz in Kraft trat. Das Gesetz verlangt,
a) dass der Patient toedlich erkrankt sein muss und sein Zustand ihm staendige schwerste Schmerzen verursacht;
b) dass der Patient von drei unabhaengigen Aerzten untersucht werden muss, von denen einer ein Fachmann fuer seine jeweilige Krankheit und einer ein Psychiater sein muss;
c) dass 9 Tage zwischen der Antragstellung und der Durchfuehrung der aktiven Sterbehilfe liegen muessen.

Die Reaktionen auf den Tod des Patienten waren vielfaeltig. Ein Sprecher der katholischen Kirche bezeichnete den Tod als "Tag der Schande" fuer Australien. Pro-Sterbehilfe-Gruppen begruessten die Entscheidung des Patienten. Der hatte in einem offenen Brief an die Bundespolitiker beschrieben, wie er durch seine Krankheit immer mehr verfallen und zur Last seiner Umwelt geworden war. "Haette ich ein Haustier in diesem Zustand gehalten, waere ich angezeigt worden," schrieb er. Er rief die Politiker dazu auf, todkranken Menschen weite r die Chance zu geben, ihr Leben zu beenden. Derzeit gibt es allerdings Bestrebungen, das Gesetz fuer ungueltig zu erklaeren.  ************** 

**Was haeltst Du von aktiver Sterbehilfe? Glaubst Du, dass Deine Meinung von Deiner Einstellung zur Religion abhaengt? 

**Gibt es Gesetze in Deinem Land, die aktive Sterbehilfe zulassen oder verbieten? Kennst Du Faelle von aktiver Sterbehilfe? Wenn ja, beschreibe bitte kurz die Umstaende. 

**Unter welchen Umstaenden koenntest Du Dir vorstellen, einen Arzt zu bitten, Dir beim Sterben zu helfen? 

**Ist es ein Unterschied, ob ich Maschinen im Krankenhaus abstelle, die ueberlebenswichtige Funktionen uebernehmen, oder ob ich jemandem AKTIV beim Sterben helfe? 


From Illinois 

I personally agree with what has happened in Australia. To legalize euthanasia was a risky move as many people believe that because of their religion it is wrong. If the religion says that they cannot comply with the rule then if the situation occurs to them they will be able to choose for themselves. If they see someone in a bed dying and they are being kept alive by a machine and they are in pain the people against it may change their minds. It is easy to be against something that has not affected you. 

People should be able to put in their will that if they are dying that the machine keeping them alive can be turned off, or if dying painfully they may be assisted by a partner. It is not up to people to judge others who choose to help their loved ones if they are dying. It is a delicate subject that has many varying ideas. 

As a solution to the debate I think that people who are dying or that are dying painfully could be assisted in easing their pain. Then once dead their relatives could have their bodies frozen until a time in the future when cures to the disease or illness they have been discovered. That far in the future they will probably have a way to bring people back to life.
What do you think? 

Wes 


From Illinois 

I am a strong proponent of personal liberty. I feel that every human being is intellegent and rational enough to make descions for themselves. As a result I oppose the attempts of the government to ban physician assisted suicides. People should have the right to decide for themselves if they want to die. The government has no business trying to prevent assisted suicides. If someone really wants to kill themselves badly enough, they will find a way. So, instead of making suicide seekers revert to covert and unsafe methods, why not legalize the practice and develop a system that will allow the procedure to be performed safely and effectively. 

Although I support assisted suicides, I also feel that some sort of regulations should be imposed to ensure that the procedure is as safe as is possible. There should be certified practicioners to perform the operation. These practicioners would have to receive extensive training and be licensed by a regulatory agency. In addition, certain types of equipment should be choosen and that apparatus required for the suicide. 

So, in conclusion, I feel that assisted suicides should be legalized, but also regulated to ensure maximum safety and efficiencey. 

Mark K. 


From Illinois 

When I first heard about assisted suicide, I had to consider many things. I tried to put myself in the shoes of a person dying of an illness. For example, if I was in a hospital bed in severe pain and the only thing keeping me alive was a machine. I would probably want to be put out of my misery.
Then the question arises: What is considered severe pain and who is the person to determine whether pain is severe? Is it the patient, the doctor, parents etc...? In my opinion, it should be up to the patient assuming the patient is able to reason or think clearly about his or her decision. Then who determines that? 

Your pal, Tim M. 


From Illinois 

When it comes to suicide, I believe it is totally a gray issue. How can someone say that there is NEVER an appropriate time to kill oneself? What about if someone was destined to suffer immense pain for several years? Would that not be an acceptable reason for death?
And what about assisted suicide? Is there NEVER an appropriate time for someone to "help" someone who needs it? Or even asks for it? I would say no, there are times and places for everything and I believe suicide is no exception.
A perfect point is, "If that sort of thing was done to animals you could be arrested." Why is it a crime to do the humane thing. If there is no chance of someone getting better, and they desire not to live, what is the crime in helping them to move on, possibly to a better place...?

Understand that with the position I am taking, I do not condone suicide on all levels. I do not believe that if a person is not deathly ill (mentally as well as physically) that taking their life is O.K. In many cases, help can be found, life will go on, and death will remain natural, sometime in the future... 

Justin 


From Wisconsin 

I don't like the idea giving people injections to kill themselves. I think it's one thing to take a person off of life-support because they're basically dead anyways, but it's still up to the person's family. I also think that it is okay for terminally ill patients to stop treatments if they wish to die and end the pain. 

Erin 


From Illinois 

I believe that people do, by their choice, have the right to die, of course it would not be a simple process. The plan that I believe should be followed is that it should be heavily government regulated. For example, you couldn't just say I want to die and have someone shoot you or something. Instead it would have to go through a court, the person wishing to die would have to go through at least 12 hours of counseling before the process is started, a license would have to be granted through the appropriate channels (such as courts and other legal offices), and finally it would have to be done by certified people, who have experience in such a field (meaning that education on the subject would have to available). The person being killed off, would also have to feel no pain in the process, like lethal injection given to criminals for death sentences. 
I say assisted suicide should be completely legal, but have to follow the guidelines above. 

Ryan 


 

From Ohio 

As a personal choice, I would never choose assisted suicide. My religious beliefs influence this opinion in a major way. I also believe that suicide is an undignified way to end it all. Of course, I've never been in the position these people are in. I don't know what I'd do in their situation. I do believe that it is okay to "unplug" life support, though. The person is basically dead. Without the machines, they are dead. 

Politically, I am for assisted suicide. I believe people should have that choice. 

Sincerely, Travis 


From Wisconsin 

Travis,
I too am influenced by my religion, but I do not believe that assisted suicide is an undignified way to end a life and I also believe that there is nothing wrong with assisted suicide. My grandfather died from the aftershocks of a stroke, and that was not only painful from him to die suffering, but it was also painful for my family. 

I believe that when a person has a life threatening disease, they should not have to suffer. They should have a right to end their lives. I am sure that the people that do participate in assisted suicide evaluate what their death will do to people, and they believe that it will be less painful for them and their family to witness a painful death, where you don't know if you will be alive from one minute to the next. 

I understand that you are "for" assisted suicide, but the way that you down it is very twisted. One day you might just be in the same shoes as the person awaiting assisted suicide and that will give you a better understanding of the harsh reality that a person can make a choice to end their life that was full of good and bad times, due to the substancial pain of their illness and also for the person wanting others to remember him/her as an independent individual rather than a person who depends on others to feed them, bathe them, clothe them, etc., which choice is more degrading? 

Amanda 


From Ohio 

Hello,
My name is Annie. I'm very glad that you all have chosen physician assisted suicide to discuss. It's not a topic that people like to talk about. I have a unique perspective. My father is a doctor, so I have been strongly influenced by his views. It is his job to save lives, and he would do anything to keep his patients alive. He operates under the basic assumption that it is much better to be alive than dead. I vehemently agree with that assumption. 

But I also have two grandparents who are very ill. My father's mother has ovarian cancer, and my mother's father has pancreatic cancer. So I can understand why some people want to allow people like my grandparents to choose to end their pain, but I can't agree with them. New treatmants are being developed every day. Instead of choosing suicide, a person who doesn't care anymore could opt for experimental treatments. That way they could help people who still want to live.
This is a very sensitive topic, and I appreciate you reading my views. 

Annie 


 

From Wisconsin 

Annie,
I believe that there is nothing wrong with assisted suicide, if the person who is going to end their life has a life threatening disease. Why go through all the pain if the end result would be the same as if you did or did not choose to participate in assisted suicide. Sometimes a person is more at peace if they choose that walk in life. My grandfather on my dad's side died from the aftershocks of the stroke and to watch him die like that was painful for him as well as for my family and me. 


From Ohio 

Being a fairly religious based person myself, I feel that the entire concept of suicide is wrong. I cannot make specific points of reference as evidence to support my stance but because of my background, I have been taught that suicide, any kind, is wrong. In the church in which I grew up, suicide is viewed by many as selfish and cowardly.
Although those that commit the assisted suicide are suffering greatly, it is through suffering that we become stronger. Everyone is going to experience pain at one point and to "cop out" at the first sign of discomfort is senseless. I must clarify that it is not my desire to see these people in pain but I still strongly feel that suicide is wrong. /../ 

Kelly 


From Illinois 

I feel that assisted suicide is wrong in most cases. The only case that it is appropriate to be used in is if a person is only living because the machine is keeping them alive. In my religion when you die it is because God has decided that it is your time to die. Death should not be something that you take upon yourself. When you assist someone else in suicide you are committing murder. If the person is ill, physically, then they should be ready to die when their disease causes them to die. They could kill themselves before a cure is found and then they would have died for no reason. 

If I had to decide if someone should help another person kill themselves I would definitely say no if they are not ill because then they are being selfish by thinking about themselves and not how others will be effected by their death. I know that this topic is very controversial and I have never been in a situation where I have had to decide if a person's life should be exterminated. There are many strong feelings on both ends of the scale but, I feel that is is wrong.  Kristin 


From Illinois 

Assisted suicide is a topic that intrigues the attention of people in society. Everyone has their own opinion on the issue, therefore, there are no right or wrong anwers to this controversy. 

I personally believe that it all depends on the situation. Obviously, helping a teenage friend kill him or herself is morally wrong. Unless the person is physically ill or horribly suffering from a disease, no one should assist that individual to kill him or herself. 

There are some cases where assisted suicide is acceptable. For example, if there is a 69 years old who is suffering from a painful disease and if the patient requests the help, we should provide it. It is apparent that the person will die soon anyways, so why not just let them die peacefully. The person will be able to organize any last thoughts and prepare to leave this life. In short, helping an old aged person suffering is a moral action to take. 

On the other hand, helping a frustrated 16 years old to kill himself is not right. The kid has so much potential ahead of him so why should someone take that away? That individual might feel bad at that certain moment but he will eventually learn a lesson and grow from the experience. In conclusion, assisted suicide is a subject where the situation should depend the results. 

Jesse 


From Illinois 

We as a society cannot legislate morality. This means that we cannot give or take the right of assisted suicide to others. We have no right. I personally have never felt un-ending pain and cannot tell someone to grin and bear it while being kept alive by tubes and metal. I also cannot tell someone that they have the right to kill another person. There are always going to be people who are manipulative. If misused, the right of assisted suicide will be another way to get away with murder. But, it may also help end a lot of pain. 

Carolyn E. 


From Illinois 

Hallo,
I think it should be ok for a person diagnosed with a terminal illness to choose if they want to end it early. It is their right to choose their fate but if another party says it is a good idea to die now rather than suffer the wrath of the illness that should be declared a legal assisted suicide. 

On the other hand if your religious beliefs say that it is a sin to kill yourself then it should be your religion which you listen to. In the catholic church it is said that to kill yourself is like killing another and is just as bad if not worse. So you might go to hell if you decided to go through with the assisted suicide. 

However the laws in the U.S. do not allow assisted suicide. One case was where a Dr. Cavorkein /sic/ helped a few people in killing themselves and is now sitting in jail. The only way I would ask doctors for help is if I was going to die in a month and if I was in great pain. 

Matt S. 


From Illinois 

Assisted suicide should not be used unless the case is so severe that no other choice can be made. The patient must be the first to call for it and the family must be informed, otherwise it can turn out as a mistake or perhaps even murder. The person who is suffering must have suffered for a few years at least, because otherwise it can just be a matter of the person not knowing how to deal with their illness. 

The biggest problem I see with this issue is that if it is legalised people's values will become faded and we will not be able to draw the line between pain and discomfort. 

Alina 


From Illinois 

Assisted suicide is a controversial subject. I feel that it is wrong to kill yourself. Even if you have cancer or another terminal illness, live your life to the fullest to the end. Make yourself an example to others,cancer is not a death sentence. Many of my family members have or had cancer. They lived with it and got the treatment that they could. Take Cardinal Bernadin (the arch bishop of Chicago) for example. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I don't remeber when. But he lived his life to the fullest. He died in November a hero to many because of the example he set to the young,old,sick,and well. Look at him and the many others who have lived a great life diagnosed with a disease. 

Sarah 


From Illinois 

Assisted suicide is a debatable issue, and I don't have a rigid opinion or total agreement with one or the other side. Sometimes, it can be seen on one level with regular suicides. Would the life of a person, who survived an accident but is left without legs or arms, improve if he wouldn't have killed himself? Will a person, who is suffering now enough to ask a family member to kill him, ever find joy in life again? 

There is a possibility of a cure to be found for some of the severest cases of diseases like cancer. But sometimes the condition of an ill man reaches a point when, losing his conscience, all he can feel and comprehend is pain -- he is not an individual anymore, and it is a right thing to end that man's life. Also there are different cases of comas. Sometimes, a recovery is possible, and even if it takes a long time, I think it is worth it to wait, unless, of course, the family can no longer afford the machinery that operates the person's life. 

However if there is absolutely no chance of normal recovery (i.e. if there is a severe damage to the brain). In those cases, if there is no opposition from the family members, the law shouldn't stand in the way of the people who wish to turn off the vital machines. Whatever the case, the legal system should not interfere with such private matters as assisted suicide unless it involves the safety or life of others. 

Olga F. 


From Illinois 

I feel the government has too much control on people's lives. If people, who aren't just depressed and can't actually come out of their predicament, don't want to live- that is their business not anyone elses except those who must concur with their decision. 

For thousands of years it has been that no one but thy own self can decide what they do. When people cross the line and try to step in the way they just screw things up. Why would anybody in their right mind try to make decisions for other people. Those people just want control of others so they will suit their own moral standings. 

Dave 


From Illinois 

I feel that suicide is wrong in most cases, but I do feel that if someone is terminally ill, that they could have the chance to end their life and get out of pain. If someone doesn't like their life, they shouldn't commit suicide of any kind, especially assisted suicide. 
I feel that it would be somewhat okay to take your own life if you are in a lot of pain, or if you are barely staying alive with the help of a machine, such as life support and a respirator. In those cases, you have no chance of getting well again, and you will spend the rest of your life in a hospital or rehabilitation center. 

In the united States, a man named Jack Kevorkian is being charged on criminal charges for assisting people that in are in normal health end their lives. There have been questions raised that if a termenally ill person had no chance of recovery, can the take their own life. I feel that this is mostly up to the family, because they have to live with themselves if a cure for that illness is discovered shortly after the commited suicide. They are also the ones that can speak for the ill person. 

Rich 


From Illinois 

I think that assisted suicide is justified in some extreme cases. I'm sure that, in minor cases, people feel a lot of pain, and may not be thinking clearly. That could be dangerous, as they could actually ask to be killed needlessly. On the other hand, if a person has a terminal illness, there is no hope for a cure any time in the near future, and they are in a lot of pain, it would be inhumane not to let them die when they want to. They would probably die eventually, and assisted suicide could save them a lot of needless pain. I guess that assisted suicide goes against my religion, as the Catholic Church believes that God should make the choice when a person will die. But then again, I don't believe in a lot of the things that the pope does. (especially his views about women) But I do believe that no person should have to bear the pain caused by cureless diseases. 

Kara 


From Illinios 

The topic of assisted suicide is a very controversial one. My opinion is this, if somebody wants to die...let them. But this does not go for everyone. For example, if someone is severely depressed, they should not commit suicide. Depression doesn't last forever and it can be helped. If someone is terminally ill and is in a lot of pain, they should have the choice of death or not. People should be forced to fill out an application for assisted suicide. If the doctor reads it and doesn't agree, then he doesn't have to help them. I figure, if someone wants to die bad enough, they will find a way to fulfill their wish. 

I feel that assisted suicide should be legal. I say this from experience. Cancer is in my family as much as having brown hair is. I have seen several loved family members suffer many horrible years from cancer. It is painful for the sufferer and for the family members. Assisted suicide is a personal choice. But if somebody is hooked up to machines and brain dead, then it becomes a family choice. 

Amber 


From Illinois 

I don't have much of an opinion on this, but I do think if people want assisted suicide it is their right. I think if they are terminally ill and in pain they have a right to make that choice. Think about it, would you want to live in pain for the rest of your life? I know I wouldn't. So if they want to then let them. 

Danny 



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