Is death natural
On February 2, 2021, Radio 100.7 reported that the Chamber of Deputies would vote on the reform of the euthanasia law and medically assisted suicide in the coming weeks. It is planned to certify the medically induced death as natural death.
A person who asks for euthanasia or medically assisted suicide is in need. He suffers, whether physically through pain or shortness of breath, whether psychologically through depression or fear, or whether socially through loneliness, loss of autonomy, unemployment, and poverty. Every doctor, every nurse, every nurse will take care of this person, take the time to listen to him and try to find out why he thinks it is unbearable to go on. And every doctor, every nurse and every nurse will then try to pull out all the stops to relieve this person of the tremendous suffering so that his life becomes bearable again for him, be it through medication, through regular visits, occupational therapy or one professional psychological support.
If, despite all these measures offered or taken, this person's level of suffering remains unchanged, then, according to Luxembourg law, the doctor will not be prosecuted if he gives in to this person's request and ends their life.
The fact that a person dies at the hand of a doctor is, in my opinion, neither a natural nor a normal occurrence. Why? Because a person wanted to die here, because treatment and care did not help him enough and his suffering therefore continued. That should shake society up! However, if such a third-hand caused death is simply accepted by a society as something natural, normal, banal, then hardly anyone will think about whether something might have to be changed or improved as a result of this specific death so that it can be in the future no longer repeat such unbearable suffering. So the point is to learn from this extraneous death and to encourage or take preventive measures.
So far, when humanity has problems, it has always tried to solve them through research and knowledge and to learn from mistakes. That will certainly not change in the future either. From this innate urge for clarification and progress, new specialist disciplines have emerged in medicine, such as pain therapy, palliative medicine, geriatrics, psychotherapy, medical ethics, preventive medicine, to name but a few. Medical ethics has resulted in a general consensus nowadays that unnecessary examinations or treatments that do not benefit the patient should not be performed. Measures such as artificial respiration, feeding via gastric tube, parenteral fluid supply are to be avoided if they only prolong the suffering but do not make life more worth living.
In hopeless situations it is the medical duty to ensure that no suffering is allowed. Medicine should be about questioning people's problems, recognizing them, understanding them and then trying to get rid of them, but not to get rid of people.
Progress can only be made if one is honest with oneself, if one is willing to recognize and admit that there have been problems that, to the satisfaction of the sick person, could not be solved with the means available other than through euthanasia or medically assisted suicide.
To certify such a man-made death as a natural death on the death certificate and to go on to the general agenda would, in my opinion, be a dangerous trivialization of a very tragic event. At the same time, the deceptive message would be conveyed that everything in the little country was fine. And not only that: It would be a false statement that would allow the survivors of the victim not to go away empty-handed if they had previously taken out life insurance. But is that enough reason for a doctor to lie? Insurance companies could pose a problem, but of course they will never find out, because that is what medical confidentiality is required for!
A bitter aftertaste remains: What about the credibility of doctors and trust in the medical profession in the long run? How much will a medical certificate be worth in the future? And why is there still a need for a euthanasia control commission and a euthanasia law? To be allowed to die a “natural” death? What about trust in a society that issues death certificates based on false testimony? How many lies is a society ready to accept and thus simply to distract from the real problem, human suffering? How do we explain this attitude to our children? Is this the role model we want to be for them?
It is a matter of course for all of us to look after people with thoughts of suicide and to try to use all possible means to dissuade them from suicide. But how does this commitment fit in with the completely opposite way of dealing with life-weary chronically ill patients, knowing that all chronic diseases diagnosed today are considered incurable? How can it be that death brought about by a third hand at the request of a chronically ill person is trivialized as "natural"?
In my opinion, it takes the solidarity of an entire society to let every single person feel their inner inviolable dignity.
Dr. Bernard Thill was an internist-oncologist
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