Without seeing a survey, I have an impression that the majority of people would like to see laws which allow humans to end their lives in a compassionate and dignified manner when the circumstances demand it. There are many chronic diseases which kill people slowly in an unpleasant way. A person suffering from such as disease (e.g. motor neurone disease) should be able to ask a suitably qualified person to end her/his life in a tender, gentle and dignified manner. Sometimes sufferers of these chronic illnesses commit suicide in various ways including at Dignitas, a Swiss organisation providing assisted suicide but they’d prefer to end their lives at home.
Citizens are wiser than lawmakers – the politicians in government – who are fearful of creating laws concerning human euthanasia. There have been several attempts by sufferers to force the government to change their attitude without success. Why are governments loathe to make it legal to euthanise a person under strictly controlled conditions? And why is it so commonplace and entirely accepted to euthanise chronically ill or dying cats?
This is the philosophical bit and there are no clear answers. Two reasons spring to my mind but there are probably others. Firstly, humans place great value on human life or we like to. Amongst humans there is a spectrum of value or worth. Not long ago there was slavery and at that time – and the legacy persists – a black person’s life was worth considerably less than that of a white person. So we assign a value to a life and the life of a human is more valuable than the life of a cat.
There is no absolute reason for that assessment. But as we are the only animal (human-animal) able to value lives we regard ourselves as the most valuable. There is a reluctance to destroy something which has the highest value of all things on the planet.
Also, physicians would argue that pain controls and care for the chronically ill are so sophisticated that it is unnecessary to end a person’s life prematurely. I don’t go with that argument. And they also might argue that diagnoses are sometimes uncertain. I agree that but when a person has suffered from a disease for a while there is certainty.
Another reason is that governments are frightened that if they allow human euthanasia it will be abused and be the beginning of a slippery slope towards mass euthanasia. I don’t accept that either. There is an inherent resistance to human euthanasia which will always prevent these fears materialising.
There is also the innate desire of all animals to survive. If humans are allowed to euthanise other humans the human race is undermining that inbuilt motivator to survive.
However, no matter how good the arguments are for not allowing human euthanasia, common sense and decency should persuade us to allow it under certain circumstances. Humans are just unable to bring themselves to create laws to allow it at this time. Things will change in due course.
For me the key difference between cats and humans with respect to euthanasia is that humans are making the decisions and humans value the lives of cats well below that of a human even if we regard cats as loved members of the family.
We don’t choose to come into the world. We should be given the right to choose when we leave it. These are personal, immediate thoughts on this subject. I respect the views of others.