What do you do when a loved one faces prolonged suffering after all treatment options have been exhausted? What should we do when he pleads to us to help him end his sufferings? Do we continue to allow him suffer the physical and psychological pain until he passes on naturally? Or do we help him fulfil his wish?
The patient does not suffer the pain alone. It takes its toll on his family and those close to him, too. What can be more distressing than seeing a loved one who had always been active and healthy deteriorate to a state where his every need has to be taken care of? What can we do when the pain eats into his very heart and we have to wait for another three hours for his next dose of pain killers?
I am greatly disturbed after reading about the paralysed man in Hong Kong (reported here and here) who pleaded for the right to die. Being a quadriplegic myself, I can partially relate to the torment that he has to go through day after day. Unlike him, I can look after myself to a certain extent. However, he is totally paralysed, needs everything to be done for him, and breathes with the help of a machine. In addition to that, chronic and acute disabilities like this put a great mental and financial strain on his family as well.
“I lie in bed 24 hours a day,” the man wrote by tapping on a computer keyboard with his chopsticks. “I need other people’s help to eat, urinate, clean my body, turn around and sleep. I am a total invalid and a financial and mental burden to my family.”
The Strait Times, 21 April, 2003.
The question is do we help him execute his desire or do we deny him his appeals to end this torment? My faith disallows euthanasia but I have my own personal opinions regarding this issue. My views on this may be flawed and could still be based on my experiences and beliefs before I converted. Nevertheless, euthanasia is against the law in most countries. If so, how then can we improve on the quality of life of people like him who have already given up hope and looking forward to be delivered from their sufferings? Palliative care alone is truly not sufficient.