A very good example of religions organizations that causes many thousands and thousands of people to suffer needlessly, because of their own “moral standards” and religious dogma, happens in the field of assisted suicide. If it wasn’t for the interference of churches all across the world, assisted suicide and euthanasia would be legal in many countries today, and a common practice performed by physicians who assist their patients to die with dignity, by their own choice and free will.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia is illegal in most countries. It is very difficult for anyone with moderate means to end their own life with dignity, with the help of a physician. Terminally ill patients are kept alive for as long as possible, and in many cases against their own free will.
One of the most famous doctors who fought the system and helped hundreds of people end their own lives was Dr Jack Kevorkian. A hero to millions of people across the world, Dr Kevorkian stood for what he believed in. After seeing many patients suffer during their last days, been kept alive by machines against their will, he took action and started to assist people in ending their own lives. Of course, the fundies came after him right away. He spend many years in court, and many years in jail, for doing what he believed was the right thing by his patients.
I heard a doctor tell a very sad story on the radio the other day. This happened in the USA. A man collapsed in his kitchen one day. He was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with lung cancer that was quite severe by that stage. He choose not to receive any treatment for it. A couple of months later, he collapsed again, and was taken back to the hospital. By this time he was quite frail, and the cancer had spread through his body. When he woke up, he had a feeding tube down his throat. He asked for it to be removed, and his request was refused. He tried to explain to his doctor that he choose to die. His request was denied. He pulled the tube out twice, and was restrained, by having his hands tied up to the bed. He later used his knees, and pulled the tube out again. They then tied his legs up too. The doctor saw this man suffer for months in agony, tied up completely, requesting over and over to be allowed to die. He was in great pain, and dignity was one thing he did not have, and was not given. This started the doctor to think that maybe a patients choice to die should be taken more seriously, and the way terminally ill people are treated should be reconsidered. It was his opinion that the way doctors practice medicine in the USA today needs to be looked at in a different light. In some cases it is not about keeping someone alive for as long as possible, but helping them move on, with dignity and compassion, and giving them that choice.
Right now there is a big movement in Australia to pass legislation to help terminally ill patients who choose to end their own lives, with dignity and proper medical assistance, called: Dying With Dignity Victoria
Their polls show that in 2006 89% of election candidates, and currently 76% of sitting members believe that terminally ill individuals should have a right to seek and obtain assistance to end their life with dignity. At the same time, in 2009 a poll showed that 85% of Australians believe that terminally ill individuals should have a right to seek and obtain assistance to end their life with dignity. In 1962 it was close to a majority (47%) and by 1978 it was up to 67%, and in 2002 was 73%+. An independent poll conducted by Newspoll found 80% of Australians in favor, and just 14% opposed. But it is not legal. Why not?
One of the reasons can be traced back to the old culprit. The churches. The Roman Catholic Church is in staunch opposition, and so is the Anglican Church. These are the two largest church organizations in Australia. It does not matter what religion a terminally ill patient is, but these churches are forcing their “moral values” and dogma on everybody.
Politicians, bless their souls, are always worried what the churches are going to say come election time. It is time for everyone to wake up. The unnecessary suffering and pain people are forced to go through, against their own free will, does not benefit anybody. Euthanasia is practiced daily with our pets, whom most of us love all their lives, and really care about, and we do not want them to suffer when they reach the end of their days. We even go as far as calling it humane. But why is it not good enough for us humans?
To me the biggest injustice is the infringement on our human rights. Our right to choose, for ourselves, to end our own lives. Our right to spare ourselves from unnecessary pain and suffering. Our right to end our lives with dignity. Our right to choose where and when, and to have the proper medical assistance we deserve. How can anybody interfere with that basic human right? This is a matter between a person and a doctor. It should be private and respected. There should not be any arrests made, doctors prosecuted, and family member charged with breaking the law, when all they did was to help someone they cared about end their lives, by their request and consent. But instead the churches balk at this practice, and call for “justice”. They want this stamped out and anyone involved made an example off. And then they (the churches) are the ones who suffer from a persecution complex.
Recently the Scottish Parliament has rejected plans to give terminally ill people the right to choose when to die, despite claims they were widely backed. One of the biggest lobbying groups against the legislation was the Care not Killing alliance of 50 groups, mostly faith-based organizations. Polls have shown that most of the population and politicians who voted on this bill was in favor of passing it, but the pressure got to them. The Bill was defeated by 85 votes to 16 with two abstentions. Of course Care not Killing used scary tactics amongst parishioners and ill, elderly and frail people in the churches as well as where the churches went and did their “work“. They spread good old fashioned propaganda and scared these people shitless, telling them they will all be put to death someday if this bill passes. This in turn scared the politicians into giving in on the matter. Isn’t it amazing how politicians will never risk their chances of reelection even if it means they have to screw over the will of the people who voted them in in the first place? When are politicians going to have the balls to stand up against the churches? Why can’t reason prevail? Why do they always bend over for religious dogma?
It is not all faith based organizations that oppose death with dignity in Australia. St Michael’s Executive Minister Dr Francis Macnab believes it is compassionate to let those who suffer to choose to free themselves of pain.
The point is, that this is a human rights issue, not a theological dogma issue. This right to choose is up to an individual, not a church or a government. It is also a doctors right to assist his patient to practice their free will to be relieved of their suffering and pain, in a dignified manner. It has nothing to do with any church and no government.
Of course there will have to be regulations, but first and foremost, it should not be illegal.