Dr. M.R. Rajagopal writes –
“What would you do if one of your patients requested mercy killing?” asked Prof.Titus, Head of the Department of Cardiology at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, during the meeting of the Trivandrum Nephrology Club at Trivandrum on the 3rd of April, 2014. The question is something that is on many people’s mind, often unvoiced.
I gave my usual reply – that in the vast majority of patients, palliative care is the viable and humane alternative to Euthanasia. That when we hear the request for euthanasia, we see it as a cry for help: “Help me! I cannot bear this suffering!” The ethical response should not be “Let us see how we can kill you,” but rather, “I see your suffering; let us see how we can remove your pain.”
Prof Titus was insistent. “Okay,” he said, “What about the minority in whom you cannot relieve the suffering adequately, and the request for Euthanasia persists?”
Really Dr Titus, my reply to you was inadequate at that point. Here is what I really do on those occasions.
I would sit down with him and mentally shed my white coat, stethoscope and all the paraphernalia that etch the word ‘doctor’ in me. At that point of time, I become but an ordinary human being, trying to relate to a fellow human being with my heart. I would convey with my face, gestures and also with my words that I care for him as a human being, and that I wish I could help more. I would tell him that I cannot oblige him in his request for euthanasia, but would continue to do all that I can to make him as comfortable as possible.
The situation where we cannot relieve the suffering adequately, and for the request for Euthanasia to persist, does come up, though not every day, maybe a a few times every year. What I wrote about one such experience in ehospice.com/india may make my point clearer.
Also, please look at the news from Western Australia where an MP is speaking on this subject.