Euthanasia

Dear friends, this video was banned by the Australia’s commercial TV regulating authority, CAD, since it was considered an encouragement of suicide. Whether you think is wrong or right, I want you to see it and give it a thought.

Besides, I translated a letter written by Piergiorgio Welby to the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano, shortly before he died. I think this letter represents a monument to the civil and human rights, to self-determination, to compassion and to life.

 

Piergiorgio Welby in late 2006.

Piergiorgio Welby in late 2006.

Dear Mr President,

I am writing to you and to all those citizens that will be able to listen to my words, to this cry, which isn’t a cry of despair, but a cry full of human and civil hope for our Country.

Until two month and a half ago my life was characterised by substantial difficulties, but at least for few hours during the day I could, with the help of my computer, write, read, search and meet my friends on the internet. Now I am sunk in a chasm were from I cannot find the exit.

The day starts with the alarm of the lung ventilator, when the humidifying filter and the catheter mount are replaced; it passes with the background of the radio, among frequent extractions of tracheal secretions, monitoring of oximetric parameters, personal cleanings, medications, drinking pulmocare. I used to get up at the latest at 10 am and started writing on my pc. Now my pathology, the muscular dystrophy, has worsened so much that I can’t move anymore, my physical state is really precarious. At midday, with the help of my wife and an assistant, I get up, but most of the times I can afford barely to sit, without using my computer because I am already exhausted. I force myself to sit on the chair so that at least for an hour a day I stay in a different position than lying down. Once I am back in bed, sometimes I fall asleep, but then I wake up frightened and sweaty, and more exhausted than before. Then I get the radio turned on, but I can’t pay attention to it. I can’t pay attention because I constantly think of how to put an end to this life. At 6 pm I try again to stay seated with the help of my wife Mina and my nephew Simone. Every day it get worse, I get weaker and more tired. After roughly one hour they take me to bed, I watch the television waiting for the time of the Tavor tablet to come, so I can fall asleep and not feeling anything anymore, hoping not to wake up the following morning.

I love life, Mr President. Life is the woman that loves you, the wind in the hair, the sun on your face, the night stroll with a friend. Life is as well the woman that dumps you, a day of rain, a friend that disappoints you. I am not a gloomy person, nor I am depressed. I am horrified by the thought of dying, unfortunately what I am left with is not life anymore: it is only a stubborn and meaningless doggedness in keeping my biological functions active.

My body isn’t mine any more… it is there, open before doctors, assistants, relatives. […]. If I were Swiss, Belgian or Dutch I could take myself away from this ultimate outrage, but I am Italian and here there is no mercy.

You must be thinking, Mr President, that I am invoking a “dignified death” for myself. No, it’s not about that. And I am not talking just of my own death.

Death cannot be “dignified”; dignified, decent, should be life, above all when it weakens because of oldness or untreatable illnesses. Death is something else. To define death by euthanasia as “dignified” is a way to deny the tragicalness of dying. Is a way to conceal and misrepresent death, which after being chased off our homes, hidden behind a screen in hospitals, neglected in the solitude of hospices, appears to be what it is not. What’s death? Death is a necessary condition for life.

[…]

In Italy euthanasia is a crime, but this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist: there are requests of euthanasia that are not approved because the doctors fear to be charged of murder. On the other hand, practices of euthanasia can be done without the informed consent of conscious patients. To grant the request of euthanasia, some European countries, Netherlands and Belgium implemented procedures that allow the terminally ill patient to plan with his doctor the path to arrive to opportune death.

[…]

When we deal with themes connected to the end of life, it’s not a fight between who is in favour of life against who is in favour of death: every sick person wants to heal, not to die. The persons sharing, with love, the obliged path that the illness imposes on the loved ones, desire their healing. The doctors, helpless towards untreatable diseases, hope in the laical miracle of scientific research.

In spite of all these desires and hopes, time passes inexorable and, as time passes, the hopes deaden and the desire to heal becomes desire to shorten a path of despair, before you get to that natural end which the reanimation techniques and the machineries that support or simulate vital functions manage to move further and further away. Given our technological progress, a day might come in which hosts of living dead will come out of the hospitals, and they might vegetate for years.

We all have to understand that dying is a learning process, it’s not just to fall in a state of unconsciousness.

Pope Benedict XVI said: “ To the claim of eliminating pain from life, even resorting to euthanasia, it is necessary to reaffirm the inviolable dignity of human life, from its conception to its natural end”.

But what’s natural in a recovery room? What’s natural in a hole in the belly and in a pump that fills you of fats and proteins? What’s natural in a cut on your trachea and a pump that blows air in your lungs? What’s natural in a body kept functioning with the help of artificial breathers, artificial feeding, artificial hydration, artificial emptying of the intestine, death artificially postponed?

I think that in order to defend your faith, you can play with words, but you can’t play with someone else’s life and sufferings.

When a terminally ill person decides to give up his loved ones, his memories, his friendships, his life and asks to put an end to a cruelly biological survival, I think that his will should be respected and welcomed with the “pietas” that represents the strength and the coherence of the laical way of thinking.

I am aware, Mr President, that by talking of my sick body I spoke as well of political issues, that should be entrusted to the free debate of the parliament and not to Your intervention. What I ask You is to defend the right of every citizen to know the proposals, the reasons, the histories, the will and the lives of people that had to confront a similar situation to mine.

Luca Coscioni’s dream was to free the scientific research and to give voice to the sick people. His dream was interrupted and only after being interrupted, it has been known. Now we have to dream for him too.

My dream, as the cochair of the Association named after Luca, my will, the request I want to bring forward in every offices, from the political to the legal ones, is today in my mind very clear and precise: I want to be able to obtain euthanasia. I want that to the Italian citizens would be granted the same opportunity granted to the Swiss, Belgian or Dutch citizens.

Piergiorgio Welby

 

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