Euthanasia – murder or a human right?

Recently a stroke victim, has challenged the euthanasia law in front of three High Court judges. Mr. Nicklinson, 58, previously worked all over the world as an engineer and enjoyed sports such as skydiving and rugby. However, after a serious stroke in 2005 he became paralysed from the neck down, only able to blink his eyes. Mr. Nicklinson claims it is human right to decide whether he should die and so states that any doctor who assists his suicide should not be prosecuted.

As quoted in the ‘i’ (sister newspaper to the independent)Mr. Nicklinson says “I feel I am denied my most basic human right; I object to society telling me that I must live until I die of natural causes and I will do all I can to restore those rights.”

This case has huge moral implications as ultimately it questions the law as to what constitutes as murder, and the outcome could affect many others who suffer from painful terminal illnesses or are paralysed. However, the BBC 2 reporter stated it would be likely the case would be dismissed. Could this be because assissted suicide comes too close to murder and change could cause huge problem in the future?

Many agree with Mr. Nicklinson that he should be able to make his own choices and since he is physically unable to act independently a doctor should be allowed to help him achieve his wishes. Also, what about his wife and family and friends; is it harder on them to watch one they love suffer or to deal with his choice in his own death? Others ask what sort of life does Mr. Nicklinson currently have? Does he even have a life anymore?

Some people say that new technologies allow those who are paralysed to communicate and live with everyone else. Mr. Nicklinson has been using a form of gaze-detection, computer software which detects eye movements so that he is able to pick out letters and the comupter device then forms the sentences. This technology means Mr. Nicklinson has been able to communicate with the outside world via twitter, where he has gained 8000 followers. Furthermore, similar gaze-control technology can enable the paralysed to play video games – an activity considered a waste of time by many, but for one guy, the one thing he could share with his son.

So, can it be said Mr. Nicklinson has no life? He certainly does not have the same quality of life as before his stroke, but can adjustments be made through technology to build a different life? Dr Donegan’s video –

– explains similar technology. One subject, Marco, says via gaze-control software “without this equipment, it would be as if I didn’t exist”. (Quoted in the ‘i’).

Or, should Mr. Nicklinson be granted his human right to decide his own fate? (even at the hands of others)?

Personally, I think technology can seriously aid the paralysed to interact with their families and friends. But if this is not the right choice for Mr. Nicklinson; I feel it is his decision and his decision alone. After all, who are we to judge a man who suffers from circumstances we cannot even begin to imagine?

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