The controversial topic of Euthanasia

Recently, the UK government came together to discuss the Assisted Dying Bill, but surprisingly for some, the bill was rejected. Euthanasia within the UK is quite a controversial subject, which the MP’s try to steer clear of for as long as possible, as this was the first time in almost 20 years for the government to discuss the issue.
The current law with the UK on euthanasia and assisted suicide is that they are both illegal. Depending on the circumstances, euthanasia is regarded as manslaughter or murder, with a maximum penalty of up to life imprisonment.
However, under guidelines published by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2010, a person accompanying someone to a foreign country to commit assisted suicide is unlikely to face prosecution. The guidance set out that a prosecution was “more likely to be required” in a number of scenarios including when “the victim did not have the capacity … to reach an informed decision to commit suicide”.
The bill in questions had plans to allow some terminally ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision. Under the proposals, people with fewer than 6 months to live could have been prescribed s lethal doses of drugs, which they would have had to be able to take themselves.
This does not really get to the focus of euthanasia. A good majority of people seeking euthanasia are people who are bound by serious illnesses who cannot end their lives themselves, such as Tony Nicklinson who suffered from locked-in syndrome. He campaigned for the legalisation of assisted suicide and even brought cases to the courts, which were sadly unsuccessful. Unfortunately, after failed attempts at court to allow doctors to end his like, Nicklinson began to refuse food and contracted pneumonia. He died August 2012. Nick Lonson had been wanting to end his life since 2007, and yet 5 years later the government had done nothing to help and support him during his struggle. This is only one of many examples of where euthanasia has hit the headlines in the UK, and will continue to in the future.
The debate concluded with 118 MPs in favour and 330 against the proposed bill, with the bill only making it to the second reading within the House of Commons.
Even though MP’s in the UK cannot see the significant of assisted dying, there are other countries around the world who have taken action towards assisted suicide. In April 2002, the Netherlands was the first country to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide, with Belgium becoming the second country in the same year. With the law comes a strict set of conditions; the patient must be suffering unbearable pain, their illness must be incurable, and the demand must be made in “full consciousness” by the patient.
In addition, countries such as Germany and Switzerland, have not legalised assisted suicide, but do allow it in certain circumstances. This may seem surprising considering out of all the countries Switzerland is publicised about most in the media due to the Dignitas clinic.
Dignitas )is a Swiss group helping those with a terminal illness and severe physical and mental illnesses to die, assisted by qualified doctors and nurses. They have helped over 1000 people die in clinics in Zurich.
Since Swiss law allows assisted suicide, but not euthanasia (the difference being that the person who wants to die must actively take the dose himself), the act of voluntarily drinking the drug, mixed with 60ml of water, and the subsequent death is videoed by the Dignitas companions, who stay behind to deal with the police and the undertakers in the hours that follow. For those unable to lift the glass to their lips, there is a machine that will administer it once they press a button
The clinic does however, help people who are not just terminally ill. In Belgium, December 2012, there was media coverage of a pair of identical twins, both born deaf, who wanted euthanasia when they discovered that they were both going blind. The procedures in Belgium are different to Switzerland as patients can have their lives terminated as opposed to relying on ‘assisted suicide’.
It is going to take a lot for the UK government to decide to pass an assisted suicide bill. Of course, with the bill there will need to be exceptions and conditions to protect people from it as well, which I feel the government is having the most trouble with. Euthanasia is going to continue being a very controversial subject which many governments will not want to divulge into. However, I honestly hope, for the sake of all the people around the world that something is done in the coming years.
In today’s age the world is changing a lot with new laws coming in such as the legalisation of gay marriage (which was a triumphant moment for people), it is hard to say whether the pressure of the public or the changing times will push government to pass such a law.

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