The Road to Euthanasia by Yoichi Miyashita

Rating: 8/10

Read the original or Chinese translation

It took Miyashita Yoichi two years to travel to Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United States, Spain, and Japan to interview people associated with "euthanasia", and to gain an in-depth understanding of their cases. 

The relevant regulations and legislation in different countries and regions that allow euthanasia are different. Therefore, "The Road to Euthanasia" is divided into 6 chapters in terms of countries, and is explained through the examples of euthanasia scenes of different families and individuals in these countries. Its specific laws, regulations and cultural concepts.

Special patients:

For most, the acceptable range of euthanasia is mostly incurable and painful "terminal illnesses" such as cancer. But in "The Euthanasia Scene", we see that this is not all cases. Some choose this path despite other ways to live, such as the girl Amy who has post-traumatic stress disorder, and Sandra, who suffers from MS but is not "close to death".

These examples may be more or less contrary to our expectations, but if we read this book carefully, we can relate to the mood and thoughts of these patients and their relatives when making this choice. In our eyes, the non-terminal diseases may torture their body and mind that others cannot understand, and euthanasia may seemed like a dignified and reassuring way to die for them at the time. 

There is a special case in the small town of Galicia in northern Spain. When the country does not allow euthanasia and the other party's family expresses objection, a woman named Ramona helps his lover - Sampedro, who has been paralyzed for 29 years, ends life. Since there is no professional equipment and facilities, this process takes up to 30 minutes. For Sampedro, these 30 minutes are long and painful, but for the 29 years he has been paralyzed in bed, it may be a kind of "seeking benevolence". 

At the end of his life, Sampedro said: "Living should be a right, not an obligation. As an obligation, I have lived for 29 years, 4 months and a few days. Even if these are weighed on the scale, there is not one ounce of happiness to be found."

Different voices:

Miyashita Yoichi not only interviewed doctors, patients and family members who supported euthanasia, but also listened to the voices of many people who opposed euthanasia.

Today, there is debate around the world, and whether it meets the standards of euthanasia is also a difficult range to define.

In the US, those who support euthanasia consider it death with dignity, while those who oppose it consider it assisted suicide. The author here takes an anal cancer patient Janet as an example. When she was initially diagnosed with cancer, Janet lost the courage to live, and she begged the doctor to give her a kind of medicine that would allow her to die peacefully. However, her idea was firmly opposed by the doctor Stevenson, who persuaded her to take active treatment after many interviews, and Janet recovered a few months later.

Thinking of "possibly saved lives were taken away", the author, Miyashita Yoichi, felt a chill down his spine. According to Stevenson, who has experienced the pain of losing his wife, "people choose euthanasia not because of unbearable pain, but because of various problems that cannot be solved by living." And Janet, who had thought about euthanasia, also said frankly, "I was not troubled by pain, but fear", and the doctor who had been persuading her Stevenson was her savior.

"Let human beings pass away peacefully" and "Humanity should not die easily", the two voices began to generate a fierce "debate" in Miyashita Yoichi's mind. Regarding the issue of human death, reasoning with logics and ethics may not suffice.

Concept of differences:

People from different countries, regions and beliefs naturally have different views on life and death. For Europeans and Americans who value the individuals, they see the responsibility of own’s own actions, and "death" is also a part of it, just like The maxim from the 19th century English poet William Ernest Henry mentioned in the book - "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul”, everyone has their own way of living , also have the right to choose how to die, while others have no right to ask others how to live.

But in many Asian and African countries, life and death are closely linked to family. People want to prolong the life of their relatives as much as possible, even if it is a minute and a second longer. 

People almost always avoid the topic of "death", including when I was reading this book, when I wanted to ask my family about euthanasia, they avoided talking about it and said that they never thought about these things .

In the author's home country, Japan, there is also an organization such as the Japan Association for Death with Dignity. Unlike the euthanasia rules in many European and American countries, the death with dignity here generally refers to "contemplation or cessation of life-extending treatment", rather than active euthanasia. Active euthanasia is a crime of "homicide". In the sensational "euthanasia incident" in 1991, the doctor was accused of "medical homicide" after assisting the patient in euthanasia at the patient's request because he couldn't bear to see the patient continue to suffer.

The author restores the people and the scene he interviewed to the greatest extent possible, and did not give his own opinions. Euthanasia may be a relief for the patient, and it may be a hardship for the family. It is necessary to achieve a balance between the patient, the family and the society, but can this balance really measure the end of life?