Mercy killing: yes, no, and why?April 26, 2014 12:03 am
byAmado S. Tolentino Jr.Possibly the first in the history of the Congress of the Philippines, a voluntary euthanasia or mercy killing and living will-related proposal known as Senate Bill No. 1887 or the Natural Death Act was filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. The bill seeks to recognize the fundamental right of adult persons to decide their own health care, including the decision to have life-sustaining treatment withheld or withdrawn in instances of a terminal condition or permanent unconscious condition.Over the past two decades, an end-of-life policy unfolded quietly in some parts of the world. In the US, the Death With Dignity Act (1994) in Oregon allows doctors to write legal prescriptions for terminally ill patients who want to control the time and place of their death. To qualify under the law, the patient should be fully conscious and able to administer his own overdose. In Europe, Belgium is set to be the second country after The Netherlands to allow terminally ill children over 12 years old facing unbearable physical suffering and repeatedly makes the request to be officially killed. Belgium and Switzerland have legalized euthanasia for many years but only for people over the age of 18. The Netherlands have legalized euthanasia for adults and children over 12 years for the past twelve years.Mercy killing or euthanasia was a favorite topic of debate in Philippine law schools during the last fifty years or so. Now that a bill is with the Senate, among many questions Filipinos wish to be answered to have an in-depth understanding of the subject that will enable them to make an informed yes or no and why in case of renewed debates, survey or referendum, are: What is euthanasia or mercy killing ? What is the difference between voluntary and involuntary mercy killing ? What is a living will? May human life be shortened legally? Should one kill another in mercy, or is life, however hard too dear to lose? What is the rule in our jurisdiction on mercy killing and assisted suicide? Is the mercy motive an element of a crime or defense to its existence? Out of compassion for a suffering patient, must we legalize euthanasia altogether? Out of compassion for the actor, must we mitigate the harshness of formal law under which euthanasia is treated as deliberate killing?If an individual has the right to live, does he also have the right to die? If there is a right to privacy, does it include the right to die? Does the right to decide ones health care include the right to decide to end ones life? Is there a right to kill? Is there a point at which an incurable illness becomes a living death? If so, is it permissible for someones life to be deliberately cut off ? What are the religious, non-religious and medical views about euthanasia?When does human life end? What is brain death? Is persistent vegetative state the same as being brain dead? When is a person legally and medically dead? What is an acceptable legal and medical definition of terminal condition or permanent unconscious condition? Who has the right to make the decision to end lifethe patient, the spouse, the parents, the doctor/team of doctors or the courts? Who should pull the plug? A black hooded executioner?The complex life-and-death problems raised by the scientific advances in the field of medicine have no simple answers. Intimately involved in the issues besides physicians and lawyers are theologians, the courts, lawmakers, psychologists, sociologists, ethicists among others. Expert advice is needed from many fields on this culture-of-life vs. emerging end-of-life policy.Former Ambassador Amado S. Tolentino Jr. belongs to UP Law 63 where his undergraduate thesis was Is there a right to die ? A study of the law on euthanasia published by the Philippine Law Journal at the height of the comatose Karen Ann Quinlan case in the US during the early l970s. He is a governor of the Philippine Ambassadors Foundation.
fforts to changegovernment policiesoneuthanasiaof human lives in the 20th and 21st centuries have met limited success inWestern countries. Human euthanasia policies have also been developed by a variety ofNGOs, most notably medical associations and advocacy organizations. As of June 2015, human euthanasia is legal only in theNetherlands,Belgium,ColombiaandLuxembourg.Assisted suicideis legal inSwitzerland,Germany,Japan,Albaniaand in theUSstates ofWashington,Oregon,Vermont,New MexicoandMontana.Human euthanasia was criminalized inMexico,Thailand, and theNorthern Territoryof Australia.Contents[hide] 1Euthanasia law by country 1.1Australia 1.2Belgium 1.3Canada 1.4Colombia 1.5Denmark 1.6Finland 1.7France 1.8India 1.9Ireland 1.10Israel 1.11Japan 1.12Luxembourg 1.13Mexico 1.14Netherlands 1.15New Zealand 1.16Norway 1.17Philippines 1.18Switzerland 1.19Sweden 1.20Turkey 1.21United Kingdom 1.22United States 1.23Uruguay 2Non-governmental organizations 3References 4External linksEuthanasia law by countryAustraliaMain article:Euthanasia in AustraliaEuthanasia is illegal inAustralia. It once was legal in theNorthern Territory, by theRights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. In 1997, the Australian Federal Government overrode the Northern Territory legislation through the introduction of the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997.Unlike thestates, legislation in the Northern Territory is not guaranteed by theAustralian constitution. Before this law was passed by the Australian Government, Dr.Philip Nitschkehelped three people by them using hisDeliverance machine. Organisations such asExit International(founded by Nitschke himself), want the government to bring back euthanasia rights to Australia. Exit made TV commercials which were banned before they made it to air in September 2010.BelgiumTheBelgianparliament legalised euthanasia on 28 May 2002.A survey published in 2010 reported that those who died from euthanasia (compared with other deaths) were more often younger, male, cancer patients and more often died in their homes. In almost all cases, unbearable physical suffering were reported. Euthanasia for nonterminal patients was rare.There have been about 1,400 cases a year since the law was introduced, and a record 1,807 cases were recorded in 2013.In December 2013, the Belgian Senate voted in favour of extending its euthanasia law to terminally ill children. Conditions imposed on children seeking euthanasia are "the patient must be conscious of their decision and understand the meaning of euthanasia", "the request must have been approved by the child's parents and medical team", "their illness must be terminal", "they must be in great pain, with no available treatment to alleviate their distress".Apsychologistmust also determine the patient's maturity to make the decision. The amendment emphasizes that the patient's request be voluntary.CanadaMain article:Euthanasia in CanadaWhile it was illegal to "aid and abet suicide" under Section 241(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which states that this is an indictable offence with a potential fourteen-year sentence if the appellant is found guilty, British Columbia's Supreme Court struck down the section, arguing that it imposed unconscionably discriminatory burdens on severely disabled individuals that were not valid under Sections 7 and 15 of theCharter of Rights and Freedomson June 15, 2012. Thus, Canadian euthanasia and assisted suicide law are currently in legal limbo, although Canada's federal Parliament had until June 2013 to deal with the consequences of this decision.The Canadian Medical Association has declared neutrality on the issue.On 6 February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled inCarter v Canada (AG)that Canadian adults who are mentally competent and suffering intolerably and permanently have the right to a doctor's help in dying. The court however suspended its ruling for 12 months to give the government an opportunity to write leglislation and draft new laws and policies around assisted dying.ColombiaIn a 6-3 decision, Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled in 1997 that "no person can be held criminally responsible for taking the life of a terminally ill patient who has given clear authorization to do so," according to the Washington Post.The court defined "terminally ill" person as those with diseases such as "cancer, AIDS, and kidney or liver failure if they are terminal and the cause of extreme suffering," the Post reported. The ruling specifically refused to authorize euthanasia for people with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or Lou Gehrig's disease.DenmarkParliament has assigned ethics panels over the years that have advised against legalisation each timehowever it is still not specifically outlawedand a study published in 2003 showed 41% of deaths under medical supervision involved doctors taking "end-of-life" decisions to help ease their patients' suffering before death (about 1% of which were via prescription drugs).FinlandThere is a grey area because of no mention in any criminal code and so it is tolerated amongst friends when done discreetly. Doctors do not formally perform it.FranceIn July 2013, French PresidentFranois Hollandestated his personal support for decriminalisation ofvoluntary euthanasiain France, which had been one of his presidential campaign promises ("introduction of the right to die with dignity"), despite objections from France's National Consultative Ethics Committee/Comit national consultatif d'thique, which alleged "abuses" in adjacent jurisdictions that have decriminalised and regulated either voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide (Belgium,Switzerland, theNetherlandsandLuxembourg). It remains to be seen whether President Hollande will be successful in his objectives, given that theCatholic Churchin France and other religious so