There’s a curious stigma that many societies have about suicide. “I know that suicide is a sin,” is a common observation, “but I don’t understand why we can’t do more to end the suffering of people.” For a term that comes from the Greek word for “a good death,” we are certainly hesitant as a people to look at a person’s voluntary withdrawal from life as an honorable act – even if they are suffering from intense pain.
Statistics on Voluntary Euthanasia
1. 54% of medical practitioners currently support the concept of voluntary euthanasia.
2. When asked if those who are terminally ill or on life support should have the right to choose euthanasia, 86% of the general public agree that euthanasia should be an option.
3. The average percentage of terminally ill patients who die while in pain: 55%.
4. In a 2014 survey of American attitudes on voluntary euthanasia, 42% of them said that they supported it.
5. The percentage of Americans who say that they strongly support euthanasia: 28%.
6. Republicans are more likely to oppose voluntary euthanasia than Democrats.
7. 38.6% of patients committing suicide in Oregon have expressed concern about being a “burden” on others.
8. In 2001, The Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia.
9. More than 80% of the Dutch patients were suffering from cancer and almost 80% of them died at home.
10. A 2005 study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that only 0.4% of euthanasia cases occurred without an explicit request by the patient.
11. In a letter to the British Medical Journal in 2011, a Dutch euthanasia specialist wrote that there are not any “Do Not Euthanize” me cards or bracelets issued just in case someone is hospitalized unexpectedly.
12. 55% of attending physicians felt that voluntary euthanasia should be permissible if the person had a terminal condition or was in a state of extreme mental or physical suffering – in 1996.
13. No single nationwide poll in the UK on the topic of voluntary euthanasia has ever found a majority of people against the practice, which is a global trend, not a national trend.
14. 64% of Americans believe that a doctor should be allowed to end the life of a patient who has a painful and terminal disease if that patient wishes to die.
15. 92% of people who are living off of a pension stated that doctors should be able to provide the means for voluntary euthanasia to occur if terminally ill patients wish to die.
16. Only 29% of pensioners agreed with the statement that legalizing euthanasia posed a realistic risk of allowing the unscrupulous to end a patient’s life without consent.
17. In the United Kingdom, 73% of Catholics believe that a form of voluntary euthanasia be allowed if there is an incurable disease that is present.
18. Support for voluntary euthanasia is usually dependent on how the practice is described. 20% people don’t support it when the process is described as a patient voluntarily committing suicide.
19. Whether voluntary euthanasia is considered a “moral” practice, the split is virtually 50/50 for and against.
Understanding Voluntary Euthanasia
There might also be some confusion about what voluntary euthanasia happens to be that is contributing to the process. Voluntary euthanasia isn’t physician-assisted suicide like Dr. Jack Kevorkian was famous for performing. A doctor isn’t providing a person with an intentional overdose and supervising its administration. It isn’t even the action to end a life with the use of drugs, either with the help of a physician or without it. Voluntary euthanasia is an competent and enduring request to be helped to die.
There are only 5 locations in the world right now where voluntary euthanasia is an option. Two states, Oregon and Washington, allow for the option of a lethal prescription to be filled after multiple requests for one when a terminal diagnosis has been made. Some might call this physician-assisted suicide, but repeated and enduring requests must be made and the patient must take the medication themselves without assistance. Three other countries in Europe also allow for the practice. Why is it that so few places have accepted the fact that someone should be able to choose to die if they so wish?
As the statistics will show, voluntary euthanasia is supported more frequently than many might lead you to believe. Ignore the slippery slope arguments for a moment and focus on the facts. We aren’t dealing with a “what if” scenario that might happen three decades from now. We’re dealing people who are terminally ill right now, in pain, and are ready to find relief.
Do We Want to Avoid Death?
Death is scary and so we wish to avoid it because we know so little about it.
Should someone have the right to end their own life? Many people object to suicide in general because of religious reasons, especially from a Christian perspective. The only problem is that the only way to call suicide a sin is to call it “self-murder.” There are 7 instances of suicide documented in the Bible. In the cases of King Saul and Abimelech, they were even assisted with their suicide attempts. In the case of Samson, it is seen as a noble act.
There’s one simple fact that cannot be ignored: no single person can truly know the depths of another’s suffering. To put religious tones on voluntary euthanasia, to call it immoral, or to force people to endure suffering that is unimaginable is as much a mockery to the value of human life as those who oppose voluntary euthanasia describe the practice.
Until we shake off our own preconceived notions about what is right and wrong for everyone else, the only thing we are doing is promoting the suffering of others for our own purposes. We eliminate our own pain and sorrow by pushing it off onto other people. How is it fair for others to get relief because they don’t have to deal with a “premature” death while forcing someone who is suffering to continue on with a life that to them has lost meaning?
The answer is that it isn’t fair.