Is it time for Singapore to consider the right to die bill?

http://www.ipscommons.sg/debate/

This is a topic that is certainly tricky and may present itself with no clear cut answer. Looking through the responses, it seems that those who are in favour of euthanasia use examples of how families seem to be suffering as a result of it being illegal here in Singapore. As much as I sympathise with the families that are going through such situations, I think the principle behind the legalization of euthanasia is important and needs to be tested.

At the root of it, I think the key principle to which supporters of euthanasia hold on to is that man ultimately is the decision maker with regards to their destiny and therefore, just as they have the right to live, so must they have the right to die. To quote Prof Tommy Koh, he says “I hold the secular view that we are the masters of our own destiny… To the question, “Whose life is it anyway?”, my answer is that it is my life.” In the comments section, one of the commenters have rightly noted the difference between having the absolute right to live or die and the right to die given certain conditions. However, I would not be too quick to accuse Bishop Solomon of setting up a straw men argument because as mentioned, the underlying principle behind euthanasia is that the right to live or die should rest in the hands of men. Personally, while I do acknowledge the circumstantial difference between wanting to die for the sake of wanting to die and wanting to die due to certain pain or suffering (be it physical or financial), I cannot see any difference with regards to the principle that drives such a decision.

Addressing the issue systematically, I think this principle supporting euthanasia is flawed. The idea that life is ours and so we can choose our own destiny opens up an entire can of worms. To cite an example, we can look at the case of Armin Meiwes a german cannibalist who ate a willing victim. Again, while some may say that suicide or consensual homicide is different from euthanasia, the principle is essentially the same – It is my life, I choose my own destiny. Implementing certain conditions (severe terminal illness, less than x amount of years to live, incurable illness) so as to prevent abuse of euthanasia also does not help as it fails to answer the question of why taking my life outside these conditions is invalid since my life belongs to me, I take charge of it. So it seems to me that those who hold to this principle in fighting for euthanasia are cherry picking by wanting to apply it only to this very particular scenario while at the same time excluding it from other scenarios which seem to necessarily follow.

With regards to Prof Tommy Koh’s utilitarian argument, I think Bishop Solomon is right in stating that we cannot put a certain amount of money on someone’s head to determine the value of human life. It seems to me that the role of doctors has never been that. While I do agree that such treatments and prolonging of life may cause a financial strain on families, I feel that what should be done is to seek and improve policies so as to help lighten this financial burden rather than to think of alternatives such as mercy killing.


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