“Nazi legislation and Hitler’s ideas are reemerging in Europe via Dutch euthanasia laws and the debate on how to kill ill children.” – Carlo Giovanardi, Italian Parliamentary Affairs minister, March 2006.

Witnessing death right in front of my very eyes is a reality not anymore shocking.

It’s not that I consider death as part of a daily routine. Rather, it is because I have already seen too many deaths even before I officially become a licensed member of a profession which requires the practitioner to revive the human heart by handing prepared doses of epinephrine.

The deaths I have encountered were both unforeseen and probable—patients diagnosed with acute systemic disorders; clients with chronic-progressive diseases on their deathbeds for weeks, sometimes even years; and geriatrics patiently awaiting their last breath. Some patients have already accepted their fate at some point during their existence. But others were unmoved and in denial, hoping that the tortuous symptoms were nothing more than that of the petty flu.

As a budding steward of health care, I am not entirely baffled by the complexity of the disease process and its pathophysiology, but rather with the patients’ perception of their conditions.

It all lies in subjectivity. In the Philippines, morality is such a big issue that it surfaces the broadsheets on a daily basis. The Church and the government both have their opinions on what is ethical and what is not, such as the debate over the Reproductive Health Bill. But how long would we Filipinos be able to sustain our so-called morality preservation?

Recently, the state of Washington legalized physician-assisted suicide. An ill individual who makes such request is provided with the means to end his or her life through the use of drugs, equipment, or discontinuation of treatment and therapy regimen. As stated in a report by the Seattle Times last March, doctors in Washington may now prescribe lethal medication to patients who wish to end their lives.

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In countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, as well as the American state of Oregon, medically induced death by request has long been lawful. Only these territories allow assisted suicide to date, but more are expected to follow. There is a debate in the United Kingdom on whether or not to legalize such an inhumane act.

It is true that patients view and deal with death in their own ways, through a mindset molded by their health status, culture, and their own interpretation of ethics and morality. Physical pain and psychological distress vary from person to person, and assisted suicide advocates insist that it is through individualized interpretation that patients can decide on whether to continue or terminate the pain and discomfort they feel.

Derek Humphry, author of the book Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying, said that because suicide is no longer considered a crime, it is unacceptable to prosecute well-meaning people for assisted suicide. He remains adamant that the subjectivity of the disease sufferer can stand as a basis of allowing physician-assisted suicide. Prolong the suffering, or give them their “right to die?”

European countries pioneer in what I consider as liberalism, tolerating for instance homosexuality and the ostensible “death with dignity.” They remain influential in world affairs, together with the United States. It is with ease that they can effortlessly persuade subordinate countries in Asia to follow the same route.

In 1999, American ex-doctor and assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, whose divisive approaches earned him the infamous moniker “Doctor Death,” was arrested and sentenced to 10 to 25 years of imprisonment. He was later released June 2007 and is now free to roam the streets.

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I wonder if the Philippines will have its local version of “Doctor Death” soon.

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