Monday, March 24, 2008

RIGHT TO DIE - CHANTAL SEBIRE

I read with great sorrow that this amazing woman has died alone. Why she was alone was not revealed, but I think its a great shame that it seems, in the end, she had to kill herself secretly.

Chantal's story is an excruciatingly sad tale. Her attempt to gain the right to die by the law and her brave willingness to expose her horrifyingly fragile situation to a world obsessed by beauty and a world media always on alert for graphic pictures of non-beauty has become the latest focus of the debate on our ethical dilemma of euthanasia.

I wish that somehow she could have had a grand send off surrounded by her family and friends.....instead of alone.

Chantal suffered from an incurable esthesioneuroblastoma tumour which had been attacking her sinus cavities for eight years. She approached the Law Courts in France in the hope they would intervene in her case and permit her request for active euthanasia. This request was denied even though her face was completely disfigured, her sight was gone, she had no sense of smell or taste and she was in continual pain. In her request she cited “intense and permanent suffering” and the “incurable character of the disease” she was suffering from as reasons for “her refusal to have to support the irreversible degradation of her state”.

After the court case she said she would not fight the decision because she now knew where to get the means to do it herself. By outwitting her failing body and the cancer that was eating her up, she gets my respect. I have no idea how difficult it would have been to carry this out, and I hope I never have to find out!

Her lawyer Gilles Antonowicz called on the President to change the law on the end of life.
“Our law is inhuman. The law must be changed because we see that people are left on the side of the road”.

Active euthanasia, or the act of taking steps to facilitate a person’s death, is illegal in France. The only assistance that is allowed is for medical treatment to be withheld, or “passive euthanasia”. As my dear friend Fiery said in her blog, we wouldnt allow our faithful dog to suffer in similar circumstances, why do we allow it to happen to our fellow humans?

Prime Minister Fran├žois Fillon said on radio last week "the difficulty for me in this case is that we are at the limit of what society can say, of what the law can do. I think one must have the modesty to recognize that society cannot answer all these questions."

French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot told the same radio station that "neither the medical world nor the authorities can promote active euthanasia, whatever the gravity of the illness."

Its what is called a a moral dilemma. A moral and legal code that allows people to linger in distressing states until their inevitable demise rather than bringing about their immediate death has big issues. This is especially the case where the patient is conscious and must endure the physical pain of a debilitating illness.

The reason that we don’t take the compassionate path is because most of us cling to the belief that there is a morally relevant difference between killing and letting die. Or the belief that the sky daddy is in charge and you must literally suffer your fate to strengthen your faith...god works in mysterious ways...ugh how repugnant!

I initially felt we absolutely and irrefutably owed it to each other to not allow the other to suffer consciously in continued agony when there is in reality no chance of survival. Now, after doing some research on outcomes in countries where euthanasia is legal I find myself only just beginning to understand that the whole thing is shatteringly complicated and I'm confusedly not so sure where I stand.

Here's a link to some information on what has been happening in Holland where euthanasia is legal, there have been some reports of abuse, mostly by doctors.

"In Holland euthanasia does not remain a "right" only for the terminally-ill, competent adult who requests it, no matter how many safeguards are established. As a "right," it inevitably is applied to those who are chronically ill, disabled, elderly, mentally ill, mentally retarded, and depressed-- the rationale being that such individuals should have the same "right" to end their suffering as anyone else, even if they do not or cannot voluntarily request death."

I dont know the answers, but for this sufferer - Chantal Sebire - it was a lonely and seemingly inhumane way to die.