A decade and a half ago, Euthanasia was a controversial subject in the news. Today, we do not hear much about it. There is a fine line between a mercy killing and the psychopathic mindset of the decision best stated “I love you so I will kill you”. This fine line is upheld by the medical and legal definition of “mercy” as applied to terminal and suffering patients.
My grandmother was taken off her feeding tube and allowed to “die naturally” and a family controversy ensued. I did not consider this the wrong thing to do, but other members of my family did not quite agree. When a loved one is at the end of beneficial medical assistance and treatments, I do not believe it is correct to continue to administer measures that strain the wallet and the emotions of the family. There comes a time to make our peace.
Suicides can also be labeled self-mercy killings to end pain. I left that thought behind me many years ago. The moral and ethical question over “mercy” by death is a strange morass of definitions and condemnations. We do not deal well with the question of determining life and death.
I had a college class when I was a teenager where a professor posed the following question: “Ten people are stranded on a desert island with no food. In order to survive they are going to have to eat each other. How do they determine who will die to feed the others and who will live?” I had a simple answer. They all wait. Sooner or later someone will naturally die first. Then everyone can eat and starve less. The hardest possible concept to understand is waiting on death when death is near.
The problem in our modern day and time is that waiting on death is not something we do. We can cause the heart to continue beating without any other life functions. We can administer a feeding tube to an unconscious dying person and keep lungs breathing that cannot breathe on their own any longer. We can sustain life when the body is no longer useful. No medical attention administered to those we can help is considered legally and morally negligent. Overt medical attention in the pursuit of hanging on indefinitely is costly and strenuous on both the dying and their loved ones whom are ready to let go for the next answers.
In a world of aging baby boomers and an increased elderly population, the “mercy killing” factor raises crucial questions about the near future. There are no clear-cut answers that fit every situation, but there are legal and medical definitions that can be sustained. In the end, to sustain our own mental health we do not cross the lines drawn in the name of love. We risk our own sanity and the right to maintain the sanctity of non-determination in the realm of the living and the dead if we choose instead of accepting the boundaries drawn.