Euthanasia, time to re-examine?

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3 years ago, this was what the Singapore Medical Association said,

"The Singapore Medical Association does not believe that there has been any change in attitudes towards euthanasia within the medical community here. We do not support euthanasia.

On the contrary, more and more doctors within Singapore are learning about, and practising, better palliative care.
We believe that when nothing more can be done to fight terminal disease, much can still be done in offering comfort to, and relieving the pain and suffering of, our patients."

3 years down the road, it is probably time to re-examine whether
a) there has still been no change in attitudes on the part of the medical community
b) the attitudes of the medical community matters more than the attitudes of Singaporeans, and what exactly is the Singaporean attitude toward this matter
c) euthanasia is intrinsically right and it's legalization should be subject to neither the attitudes of the medical community nor Singaporeans
and thereafter determine if euthanasia should be allowed in Singapore.

Realistically speaking, euthanasia has yet to be allowed in Singapore, and it is unlikely that it will be in the near future. (This prediction that I make is in part based on what I continue to see as a Singaporean society that is still largely conservative and unlikely to change in the near future, and also in part because I don't think the PAP is really interested in bringing this issue up for debate)

Yet, in the context of greater acceptance toward euthanasia elsewhere, and with the fact that more and more people are going to be put under palliative care, (With advanced medical procedures, it's really getting harder for people to pass away. Compared to 50 years ago, euthanasia probably wasn't as much of a hot topic since life support systems weren't as likely to keep you alive as they are now) it probably is time to examine this issue.

The three aforementioned yardsticks need to be measured by the government, who then needs to either ban euthanasia outright and make the consequences of illegal euthanasia clear to all (i.e. being charged for 2nd degree murder) or legalize it and put checks and balances in place to ensure that the process is painless and to ensure that the consent of either the individual to be euthanized or a relative (whom the law recognizes as being capable of making decisions on the individual's behalf) is secured.

I cannot make an assessment of each of the yardsticks right now (I'm far too lazy) but I am going to briefly weigh each yardstick.

Criteria 1: There has still been no change in attitudes on the part of the medical community

Well, we do need a doctor to administer the lethal injection (painless if you do the 3-tier thing, and definitely more humane than removing the feeding tube) and definitely the cooperation of the medical community to put checks and balances in place. (making sure the patient is truly brain dead for instance)

However, the hippocratic oath does complicate things a little. Doctors were and are still supposed to "do no harm", calling into question the issue of whether euthanasia would indeed be doing harm, even if the patient in question is a consenting party (through a will). An interpretation of the hippocratic oath to be a calling which must be obeyed in an absolute sense does sound flawed to me, for surely a doctor who needs to make a decision between either saving a 70 year old man or a 10 year old kid (assuming that the doctor needs to sacrifice either) cannot just stand by and do nothing because saving one would mean he does harm to another. Similarly, if loved ones can be saved from emotional and financial trauma in exchange for the loss of the life of a person who doesn't wish to live anymore anyway and that has little meaning left, surely the hippocratic oath shouldn't bind doctors to cause net harm instead.

Criteria 2: The attitudes of the medical community matters more than the attitudes of Singaporeans, and what exactly is the Singaporean attitude toward this matter

As with any good ol' democracy (or aspiring democracy), the wishes of the people need to be respected. That aside however, it is a necessary question to ask and be debated upon because inaction could very well lead to social tensions (ah social tensions, the government's favourite enemy)

Criteria 3: Euthanasia is intrinsically right and it's legalization should be subject to neither the attitudes of the medical community nor Singaporeans.

As to whether euthanasisa is indeed intrinsically right, there can be no definite answer just as how no one can be sure about what the right to life truly entails. Should a person be allowed to live indefinitely, or even forced to against his will because the right to life reigns supreme? Or should a person's wishes be respected and his right to life also through recognising his right to die. While these questions cannot be answered for sure, the fact that Singapore still considers suicide a crime reveals how much existing laws support the former statement, that the right to life reigns supreme. It is therefore a necessary implication of any legalization of euthanasia that suicide also be allowed with all the possible repercussions of defeatism.

Yet that question is only relevant when we consider the person to be "living" in the first place. Should a person be incapable of responding or even be brain-dead and therefore incapable of any of the human functions that differentiates living from non-living beings, or perhaps the intelligent from unintelligent beings, should this person still be considered "living"? This begs the question of what constitutes life. There can be no easy answer to this.

Given the nebulous and controversial nature of these answers, it is difficult to say for sure that euthanasia is intrinsically right. (especially since what is right or wrong is often determined by society itself)

It might therefore be a safer bet to fall back onto society's views and simply allow society to decide for itself. In this case however, euthanasia doesn't always concern society at large and could arguably be an issue of personal preference, just as how two individuals may choose to wager between themselves, where the risks are isolated and society has no cause for concern. Wagers, however, cannot be compared to life that is so sacred, so scared that the state and the government has a duty to protect. This once again begs the question of where the boundaries of state intervention should be drawn. Should the state always have a say in all matters to do with one's life? Even when the individual is clearly against living? Or should the state allow a free reign in matters such as these, and possibly allow a degradation of society's morals, that is if the state considers living as a moral issue.

So many questions but so few answers. It just goes to show that the only thing for sure, is that this issue remains a controversial one. Regardless, discussion should help.