Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁) on Friday last week unveiled a euthanasia proposal titled a “dignified end of life bill.” The proposal is remarkable for a couple of reasons.
First, unlike most bills, which are either made up of draft articles sponsored by several lawmakers, a caucus, or submitted by the Executive Yuan, Hsu singlehandedly sponsored the bill, which has advanced to committee review.
Second, Hsu was bold for sponsoring a bill that broaches an issue that has traditionally been avoided by Taiwanese politicians.
As with the abortion issue, euthanasia touches the nerves of religious groups. The ire of Christians is to be expected, while Buddhists also strongly condemn suicide.
The bill is controversial, but Taiwan is known internationally as a place that embraces progressive values, such as same-sex marriage, which was legalized this year. It deserves serious consideration by lawmakers across party lines, especially given the circumstances the nation faces. With the nation rapidly moving toward “super-aged” status, the National Development Council’s dependency ratio forecasts that by 2025, one elderly person would be dependent on 3.4 people aged between 15 and 64.
A survey by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics found that Taiwanese on average spend 8.8 years in poor health and some have to undergo treatments such as kidney dialysis or chemotherapy, the latter being a costly ordeal that often only serves to marginally extend lives.
Also, not every elderly person has family to take care of them when they are ill, while the nation’s chronic low birthrate means that the problem will not be ameliorated any time soon.
When a person is so sick that they cannot even take care of their basic needs, allowing them the choice of how to leave this world is a benevolent, not cruel, thing to do.
If euthanasia were legalized, a provision should be introduced to allow healthy people to sign advance directives in case they become comatose or have their mental state impaired — just as the Patient Right to Autonomy Act (病人自主權利法), which was promulgated this year, allows people to sign an agreement stating that they would not undergo intubation or life-sustaining intravenous medication if the situation demanded it. The key is to be prepared for the worst.
Sports anchor Fu Da-ren (傅達仁) made headlines last year when he traveled to Switzerland to end his life by assisted suicide after dealing with pancreatic cancer.
Poignant as the news might have been, Fu said that he was in a peaceful state of mind and had “no regrets,” while his son, Fu Chun-hau (傅俊豪), described the scene of his father’s death as “warm and peaceful.”
This suggests that euthanasia could make excellent material for life education and show people that death does not always have to be dreadful.
The nation has always championed human rights. The ability to be liberated from pain and have a dignified end of life is a basic right.
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