What You Didn’t Know About Euthanasia (Assisted Death)

What You Didn’t Know About Euthanasia (Assisted Death)

My friend once asked me, “Imagine you have a patient who has been critically ill for quite a while. The family approaches you and requests you to end his life by stopping his therapy. They can’t help watching him suffer so much and the hospital bill is accumulating by the day. Any hope that he will recover has been lost. Would you do it?”

“I would ask the patient,” I replied.

“Imagine that he is so ill, he can’t even speak,” she pressed on.

“That’s a tough one.”

“What would you do? You have to make a decision.”

“Well, I’d give myself time to think of the most appropriate decision,” I replied, making it obvious that I was dodging her question. The subject of euthanasia is as sensitive a matter as abortion – no one wants the moral condemnation associated with either. Now, class, euthanasia is the practice of ending a patient’s life, usually one suffering from a terminal and/or painful illness, or one in an irreversible coma. It is sometimes referred to as “mercy-killing” or “physician-assisted dying”. To fully understand euthanasia, we must first understand how it is classified. This is mainly into two:

a) Active euthanasia: whereby a person directly causes a patient’s death. An example is overdosing the patient with muscle relaxants.

b) Passive euthanasia: whereby a person indirectly ends the patient’s life, by just leaving them to die. Passive euthanasia is performed when treatment is either:

  • Withheld: for example, when a life-supporting machine is switched off.
  • Or withdrawn: for instance, when a surgery that would have extended their life for a little longer is not performed.

Euthanasia can also be classified as Voluntary (a request by the patient or his next of kin) or Involuntary (when the patient wants to live but is killed nonetheless, perhaps because they are considered a burden -as it happened in Germany during the Nazi barbarity on the elderly and mentally/physically disabled). Involuntary euthanasia is simply man-slaughter or murder.

Euthanasia in itself is a subject that is here to stay. We are all aware that human life is indeed sacred and that it is wrong to take someone’s life. However, what if in certain medical circumstances ending someone’s life is being merciful instead? If your significant other or family member developed an illness that put them through intolerable pain and suffering, would you want them to be able to ask for medical help to end their life? 

Even the greatest philosophers of all time had their share of the euthanasia dilemma. Plato, for instance, supported passive euthanasia by saying doctors should withhold treatment in patients not expected to survive for long. He believed in natural death, where nature is allowed to take its course. He, however, strongly opposed active euthanasia.

Hippocrates, on the other hand, was passionately against any form of euthanasia. In the Hippocratic Oath, physicians pledge neither to administer toxins to anyone, nor to suggest such a course. Some people will argue that if an animal, say a sick pet dog, is allowed to die peacefully, then humans should also be given that right of “death with dignity”. The other side of the warfront however, is the question, “Was that choice to be killed made by your sick dog?”  Despite the ongoing debate, many affirm that people do not have to endure a humiliating existence, no matter what age they are.

The Supreme Court of Canada, for instance, passed a ruling that: If a person’s life-ending suffering becomes so unbearable, that person should have the right to a peaceful death with the assistance of a doctor. Closer home, the former South African President, Nelson Mandela, had a slow death, with his family debating whether or not to have his life-supporting machine switched off.

In Kenya, human life is highly sanctified. Euthanasia is equated to murder. As a medical practitioner in Kenya, you should remain aware that the law does not approve of any form of agreement involving the death of someone. A medic who performs euthanasia with the intention of reducing the person’s suffering is as guilty of murder as a person who kills in the ‘heat of the moment’. This is covered under section 209 of the Penal Code. 

The same law, however, also provides a right to human dignity. Should this dignity extend to cancer patients who are slowly wasting away in pain? What of patients in persistent vegetative state? Should patients with chronic depression be included among those able to access Physician Assisted Death? Is choosing how you will die and meet Yeshua, generally suicide? Food for thought.

 “What would you do?” I remember asking my friend her question.

“I would let my patient live,” she replied proudly. “Every patient deserves to be given another chance to live.” She was also right.

Don’t forget to check out our previous blog post – 5 Common First-Aid Mistakes  if you haven’t already. Leave a like, share and comment down below. What are your thoughts on today’s topic – 

What you didn’t know about euthanasia?



  1. I’ve have seen a family reach to this point and its actually Soo sad, bt in cases where one can’t be helped medically that’s the only suitable way to go for it good work

    • I am picturing the amount of pain one has gone through before settling on having their life taken away. Must be hard for everyone involved

  2. It’s a medics obligation to save someone’s life is it though ‘saving’ though if it means pain and suffering to the patient and theirs?? I’d hate to have to make such a call…. Great piece!! ????Such a conversation starter

  3. Very informative indeed. As a registered nurse, currently practicing in the U.S., and a professed Christian, I question my ethos every time I think of euthanasia. My guiding philosophy in practice is: the patient’s interest is the ONLY interest !

    • Thank you for the feedback Daktari. Such a powerful philosophy you got there. Does the U.S. law support the practice of euthanasia?

  4. Yes, It is used for euthanasia for humans as well as animals. It is also used by itself, or in combination with complementary agents such as phenytoin, in commercial animal euthanasia injectable solutions.

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