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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: April 9, 2007 NO.15 APR.12, 2007
Should Mercy Killing of the Terminally Ill Be Allowed?
Mercy killing is a difficult choice to make worldwide. In China the issue is now being debated after the pleas of a diseased young woman living in pain was posted on the Internet, begging to be allowed to terminate her life

Cautious about euthanasia

Wu Fengying (New Express): Facts in recent years show that in a social environment without a well-developed moral system, any well-intended legislation may be distorted and abused. So if euthanasia is legalized in China, is there any guarantee that it will not cause moral risks? Is it possible for the state to set up strict procedures for euthanasia, so as to prevent all kinds of hidden problems? I sincerely doubt this.

Euthanasia should be based on a patient's free will, but as we know, when somebody is seriously ill, sometimes it's hard for him or her to express clearly what he or she wants to do. At that moment, it is the family members that interpret the message. But the will expressed at that time may not be exactly what the patient intends. Support for euthanasia expressed by a patient who still has all his or her faculties may need to be reconsidered by family when a patient is terminally ill. Doctors know that for some patients, the more serious their diseases become, the stronger becomes their will to live.

Even if there is a requirement that at least two doctors provide proof for a euthanasia case, the medical ethics of Chinese doctors in this mammonish environment is quite doubtable.

Until the social system is restored, the euthanasia bill should die a peaceful death. Maybe without euthanasia, incurable patients like Li will have to suffer more, but a ban on euthanasia will surely help to prevent many cruel murders.

Zhang Yi (Southern Weekend): As far as euthanasia is concerned, there is too much emphasis on problems directly related to medical treatment, such as patients' misery and pain, the burden on patients' families and the distribution of medical resources. There is not much attention focused on the value of life and the protection of human rights.

In accordance with international human rights conventions and relevant treaties, every state has the obligation to offer its citizens medical services that are technically available. If the citizens are too poor to afford the services, the state is obliged to assist and even to offer free medical services.

In China, many believe that medical treatment is the private business of citizens, and so if one has no money, he or she should not go to hospital. On one hand, this reflects how little the Chinese people expect from their government; on the other hand, however, the government should not take it for granted that citizens should take full responsibility for their own medical treatment, but it must realize its moral obligation in this issue. If patients apply for euthanasia because of economic difficulties, and laws justify euthanasia because of this condition, then laws are responsible for the damage of human morality.

In my view, it's improper to totally forbid euthanasia. What must be considered is whether the current economic conditions, legal system, medical security and moral standards in China are ready for the country to allow mercy killing. If not, there is a risk that euthanasia, in whatever form, may be abused. We must therefore exercise caution in the legislation of euthanasia.

Nan Du (Nanfang Daily City News): Because of the incurable disease, Li seems to have become a heavy burden on her family. When tortured by both physical and psychological pains, the girl is likely to choose death as a way to disentangle herself from this painful reality.

Many people are faced with difficulties similar to Li's. They are terminally ill, but at the same time, we should notice that modern medical technology is helping them to survive.

The government and society at large both have an obligation to help incurable patients, for example, by offering them adequate medical security, a charity fund and building up professional care institutions.

Those who support euthanasia believe that if a patient cannot manage to survive, then he or she should have the right to die with dignity. The opponents ask, how does one judge who can or cannot survive? There may be different answers in different cases. However, in the case of Li, she is not in such a desperate and helpless condition that she has to end her life. As long as the government and society can offer more aid and care, it's absolutely unnecessary for this young woman to take the euthanasia option.

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