In the last book i read, Thursdays At Eight, by Debbie Macomber, the beginning of every chapter carries a quote by famous women. One of the quote which I remember was by Joan Baez – ‘You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now."
This quote seems ironic now that Singapore is debating if we should legalise assisted suicide or euthanasia. Like any controversial topic, there are two camps of thoughts, one supporting and the other against. Those who support it have witnessed love ones suffered from terminal illnesses. This debate is different from Living Wills, which one makes in the presence of a doctor as a witness. A Living Will is a written, legal document that spells out the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you do and don’t want, such as mechanical breathing (respiration and ventilation), tube feeding, resuscitation etc. This is different from helping to hasten death.
Coincidentally in March 2010’s issue of Oprah magazine, there was a excerpt by Zoe FitzGerald Carter from her forthcoming book Imperfect Endings, in which she describes how her mother planned and commited suicide with her daughters by her side. They had obtained the approval from a local psychiatrist and prominent member of the assisted-suicide movement, who had decided that her mother was a good candidate for ‘self deliverance’. Why? Because her mother seemed mentally competent and fit, was dealing with a very serious disease that she knew was going to get worse over time. The doctor believed she should not have to live any longer or suffer anymore than she herself wanted to.
In the end, the authour’s mother chose to starve herself, as they had read from a phamplet from the doctor that cessation of food and drink was a ‘relatively quick and painless way to die and less traumatic for the whole family than the sudden imgestion of drugs.’ Her daughters were with her until the very last moment when, i quote, ‘Her last few breaths were several minutes apart and then she …just stopped.’
Euthanasia is a hot topic for GP during my time in JC and it’s still being debated now. I didn’t take GP then but Ivan now has the previliage of doing GP and perhaps discussing the topic in class. I hope he will study the subject matter seriously so that when the time comes to make a decision for/with his parents, he is objective and knowlegeable about it.