I’ve been shying away from writing new posts for quite some time. One reader even commented that my Now Reading book has been the same for months! Well, blame it on the exam. I really don’t have any time to write new posts or update my blog during the exam period. Now that the major papers are over, and only French is left for next Friday, I finally have some time to get myself a little bit more organised again, and write some new posts.

I was doing some spring cleaning the other day, throwing away unnecessary stuffs and compiling used papers for recycling when I came across one of my Theory of Knowledge (TOK) subject assignment some time last year. It was entitled “Is Euthanasia Justified?”, where we are given four cases in which euthanasia (mercy killing) is involved, and asked to comment for each case whether the action is justified or not.

Now that I thought it is kind of interesting to share, so here I post the fours situations and my comments on them. Do offer your own comments, but please please do realise that these are my personal opinions. You are completely free to have your own 🙂

CASE 1

1988. Samuel Linares, an infant, swallowed a small object that stuck in his windpipe, causing a loss of oxygen to the brain. He was admitted to a Chicago hospital in a coma and placed on a respirator. Eight months later he was still comatose, still on a respirator, and the hospital was planning to move Samuel to a long-term care unit. Shortly before the move, Samuel’s parents visited him in the hospital. His mother left the room, while his father produced a pistol and told the nurse to keep away. He then disconnected Samuel from the respirator, and cradled the baby in his arms until he died. When he was sure Samuel was dead, he gave up his pistol and surrendered to police. [Charged with murder, but jury refused to issue a homicide indictment].

Comment: Not justified. What happened to Samuel Linares was completely out of anyone’s intention or expectation. No one had asked him to choke that small object, and being an infant, he’s just terribly unlucky. Her father’s action of pulling out that respirator and cradle him to death was to me  a desperate action taken too early which should not, in the first place, be any desperate action at all. The father seems to be afraid of what the future might hold and saw disaster rather than hope. Cases have been reported that with strong determination, a child terribly abnormal at birth can grow up into an extremely successful person. Yes, of course, the road that lies ahead won’t be easy, but taking the easy way of denying the little baby his own right to live, that is just unjustifiable.

CASE 2

Louis Repouille had a son who was described as ‘incurably imbecile’ had been bed-ridden since infancy and blind for five years. According to Repouille: ‘He was just like dead all the time …. He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t talk, he couldn’t do anything.’ In the end Repouille killed his son with chloroform.

Comment: Not justified. It is actually rather hard to analyse and judge the situation based solely on the passage, as the tone of the passage gives the idea that the father committed the act of killing his son out of disappointment alone. If such is what actually happened, then of course the act is unjustifiable. Even if the father would have had a terribly hard time committing the action, it is hard to justify the action as the situation could always be improved. The son was described as ‘incurably imbecile’, but by whom? How many second opinions had the father asked for? When somebody tells you your son is a fool, it doesn’t necessarily mean your son is, does it? Point to be considered is, people can tell us anything they want, but we don’t have to believe them. True, we cannot control or change the situation, but we can do everything in how we react to the situation. That’s what matters.

CASE 3

In 1991, the Lancet reported that Rita Greene, a nurse, had been a patient at D.C. General Hospital in Washington for thirty-nine years without knowing it. Now aged sixty-three she had been in a vegetative state since undergoing open heart surgery in 1952. The report stated that at any given time, between 5,000 and 10,000 Americans are surviving in a vegetative state. In other developed countries, where life-prolonging technology is not used so aggressively, there are far fewer long-term patients in this condition.

Comment: Justified. The patient is aged 63, and is completely able to make her own decisions. Therefore, her own life is what it is – her own. It is only right to give someone the full chance of survival, even if it’s in a vegetative state. This is because we never know what the future holds for us. What if, we pull out the cord today, and the next day there was news saying the very cure that puts her in such a vegetative state is found? Yes, being in that condition for 39 years is such a long hard road for everyone that cares for her, and the longer she stays, the heavier the burden she puts on the hospital staff. But isn’t that what we build hospital for? To take up a burden so that others could have a better chance to live.

CASE 4

In 1982, the ‘Baby Doe’ case brought this practice [of allowing infants to die] to the attention of the American public, ‘Baby Doe’ was the legal pseudonym of a baby born in Bloomington, Indiana, with Down’s syndrome and some additional problems. The most serious of these was that the passage from the mouth to the stomach – the oesophagus – was not properly formed. This meant that Baby Doe could not receive nourishment by mouth. The problem could have been repaired by surgery – but in this case the parents, after discussing the situation with their obstetrician, refused permission for surgery.  Without surgery, Baby Doe would soon die. The hospital authorities, uncertain of their legal position, took the matter to court. Both the local county court and the Indiana State Supreme Court upheld the parents’ right to refuse consent to surgery. The case attracted national media attention, and an attempt was made to take it to the US Supreme Court, but before this could happen, Baby Doe died.

Comment: Not justified. It is only a wonder to why the parents refused permission for surgery. It is stated that they made the decision after they had discussed it with their obstretician. Whatever the reasons, it must be a very strong and tough reason that they have, for to stick with the decision after so much pressure has been put on them – the court, national media, people’s attention and all – that is not something very easy to do, I would say. However, this goes back to the reasoning I give for Case 2. The obstetrician might have said something full of disaster and not of hope, but did the family asked for second opinion? That is, if there is to be any, the sole  reason why I disagree with the parents’ action, the decision that many people share.