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Health and Wellness

My life, my choice – the debate continues..

By June 19, 2014May 28th, 20217 Comments

In 2011, I met Carol (real name withheld).  Carol was two years off retirement.  On discussion about retirement in general, Carol told me in a matter-of-fact way, that she had ten years worth of retirement funds, and she planned to have ten years of fun – doing all the things that she enjoyed and had not had the time to do, during her working life.  Once that came to an end, she planned to go on a hunger strike.  She has no family.  She would not tell her friends.  In essence, she had worked out that she could end her life within a 30-day period, without hurting anyone close to her.  She said “It’s my life, and my choice”.

I was shocked to the core – I get it, and I don’t.  On deep thought and analysis, one has to agree that freedom of choice is the hallmark of human identity, but to go to these lengths?

Carol’s case is not, strictly speaking, Euthanasia, which means “good death”, and refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.  Some may argue that Carol’s life could suffer because of the lack of retirement funds.

Euthanasia is one of the most active areas of research in contemporary bioethics.  There are three different categories of Euthanasia – voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary.  Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some countries.  Non-voluntary euthanasia is illegal all over the world.  Involuntary euthanasia is normally considered to be murder.

Euthanasia is currently illegal in this country as it is in most countries around the world.

Most of us are probably familiar with the case of Professor Sean Davison in New Zealand who assisted his terminally-ill mother in ending her life, following her desperate pleas after a long battle with cancer.  He was sentenced to 5 months house arrest in New Zealand, after he pleaded guilty to a charge of assisted suicide.

Professor Davison has recently returned to South Africa and he and some colleagues have launched Dignity SA, which “supports the right of the individual to self-autonomy in end-of-life decisions but recognizes that we must do so within the wider structures of family and society. Dignity SA seeks solutions to issues surrounding end-of-life care, solutions that will offer South Africans clear and real choices in an environment that ensures social responsibility and accountability”.

Dignity SA  has launched an online petition in order to give South Africans the opportunity to show their support for a law change in order to legalise assisted dying in precisely defined conditions.

There are so many elements to the debate – spiritual, moral, legal and philosophical.

Supporters believe that terminally ill people have the right to end their suffering with a quick, dignified and compassionate death.

Opponents of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide believe that doctors have a moral responsibility to keep their patients alive – and argue that active mercy killing is unacceptable.

We ask our readers the core question that is difficult to answer objectively:  Should euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide be made legal?


  • joan lawson says:

    I think euthanasie or physician-assisted suicide should be made legal and an option to a terminally ill patient. Joan Lawson

  • effeness says:

    Yes physician assisted euthanasia should be legalised. I know of a number of people who have admitted having a “stash” – I think it’ s time I did the same. My wife and I have both signed a living will which our GP knows about and supports. Effeness.

  • dogsmom says:

    I have had vets euthanase many dogs whose quality of life was miserable, painful, very poor, due to old age, chronic illness or injury. I knew I was doing the right thing in spite of my sadness at losing the dogs. I see no difference in doing the same for humans.

  • Jean Young says:

    I fully agree that voluntary assisted suicide should be made legal with regard to not only terminal illness but also with regard to incapacity due to accident or age – as the person wishes. We should have the right to end our lives as we wish after a certain age. I agree with the lady who does not have enough money to last to the end of her days. Today we can find ourselves living into our nineties – not always with joy, comfort and happiness. I challenge anybody who argues against voluntary suicide to spend some time in the frail care sections of old age homes. You might well change your mind.

  • Jane Boessow says:

    Phew, difficult yes but what is life without the right to make the choices we want to make? I too have had dogs “Put down” as the saying goes when their quality of life has deterioated but could I do that to my husband or children? I don’t know.

  • Ariane says:

    This knife has 2 sharp sides! First we came onto this earth to fulfill a task. Do we know when it is done?
    In the other way: if through accident or a terminal sickness it is sure we stay as no more than a “piece of meat” wich costs useless a lot of money (what would be better used to help children or the poor!) without quality of life, I think the only way is to pull the plug and end the life in dignity and peace. One could make the last days, hours or minutes of a loved one so beautiful as possible and let them go through the tunnel to the bright light.

  • Lynette says:

    I agree with the voluntary assisted suicide. I do not think it is an easy decision to make as we are all very selfish and want our loved ones to stay with us as long as possible. But quality of life is very important. So is dignity. If you have to be looked after by family in your last years, you might feel you are a burden on them and you definitely feel like you do not have dignity.

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