2020 will go down in the history books as a sort of ‘annus horribilis’ because of the COVID crisis and a landmark event might go unnoticed: it was the year when the Congress of Deputies greenlighted the right to the euthanasia draft bill of law, the first step for the PSOE Government to get the law passed. It didn’t come as a surprise since it was common knowledge that the PSOE endeavoured to push through the so called ‘right to a dignified death’, an enterprise endorsed by its allies of ‘Unidas Podemos’. Furthermore, some mainstream outlets had been laying the groundwork for some time for such legal provisions to be executed (in other words, the award-winning film ‘Mar Adentro’ by Alejandro Amenabar.)
Its approval hasn’t come as a surprise, but neither has it been without controversy, even though the current COVID-related vicissitudes have diverted the public attention away from this contentious subject. In this essay I will try to summarize the arguments of its proponents and opponents and I will venture my own view.
The major argument of those who champion euthanasia lays in that the right to choose cannot be restricted by any principles whatsoever; in other words; going for euthanasia would equate to an exercise of freedom. Some people are so handicapped that they are incapable of taking their own lives, but they appear willing to do so. Whoever would deny the assistance to pull off what their wrecked situation prevents them from putting into practice?
The opponents of euthanasia don’t rely on the most mainstream outlets to voice their concerns; only on the right-wing ones (no-one is a match for Amenabar, by the way) and, to a great extent, their apprehension is that euthanasia might be the legal riddance of vulnerable persons looking forward to living, despite the woes that may plague them. Merciless people might annihilate relatives whenever their care and attention seem a tiresome task. Even a bleaker case scenario might arise; that of greedy heirs anxious to come into money.
What do I make of all these arguments?
Seldom do I see things so straight forward:
First of all I will debunk the fallacy of ‘unrestricted freedom’. No more do I consider euthanasia to be an exercise of freedom than I deem suicide to be such. One doesn’t decide to take one’s own life; one falls into suicide, into euthanasia. Who might imagine what despair and loneliness can blind some to demand euthanasia?
As regards the humanitarian endeavour to end suffering, we have neglected the palliative care that can relieve those aches. It’s a forgotten aspect of the question. Why don’t we invest in its application? A genuine humanitarian approach consists of mitigating pains and troubles; not of doing away with those who endure them!
It seems that life puts some through hell; but our resilience is greater than our misfortune. Palliative treatment and love get us through the cruellest adversity.
Sonsoles Hinojosa Mellado
Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Murcia