It had to happen eventually. Mrs M, whom I wrote about in my very first post, isn’t doing too well. When I visited today, she had taken to bed. I had been called out as she thought she might have a chest infection, and I couldn’t rule it out. She looked dehydrated, and she was a little tachycardic, but I couldn’t see much else. She clearly couldn’t look after herself, as she wasn’t eating or drinking, so I arranged admission. While I packed away my things, we chatted about her mood. Then the tears came. Then The Question. “Could you give me a little something, doctor, just something to end it all? Being old is so terrible. It just not worth it without John.”
Euthanasia is such an ethical dilemma for me personally. I’m very liberal in politics and in ethics. A bit fluffy round the edges, and drawn to the sufferers in life. My duties as a doctor seem fairly straightforward but on closer reading you can see quite easily where conflicts arise. I must respect human life, of course. I must make the care of the patient my first concern, but I must also respect my patients’ right to make decisions about their own care. I must not abuse the public’s trust in my profession, but I must also listen to patients and respond to their preferences.
I am glad I live in the UK, as I feel happy that I can say “no” in cases like this, knowing that the law is clear. Although in some circumstances, legal euthanasia feels to me like the “right thing” ethically, I know I’d find it difficult if I were the one who had to administer it. I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision.