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Is Stephen Hawking’s call for assisted suicide right? Decoding the morality of ending a life

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By Rukma Singh

“I would consider assisted suicide only if I were in great pain or felt I had nothing more to contribute but was just a burden to those around me”, said Stephen Hawking in a recent interview with Tara O’Briain for BBC.

Stephen Hawking, a 73-year-old physicist, is a living tale of extraordinaire. He has been suffering from the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis since the age of 21, but that hasn’t deterred him from achieving what he wanted in life. Even after a lifetime of scientific contributions to the world, the physicist believes he hasn’t done enough.

He continues to be motivated and believes that he still has a long way to go.“I am damned if I’m going to die before I have unraveled more of the universe,” he says.

In an interview, Hawking commented on the much-debated concept of assisted suicide. He said, “To keep someone alive against their wishes is the ultimate indignity.”

Hawking’s comment has once again sparked the debate on the subject of assisted suicide.

There are a number of aspects involved with this issue, and to choose to go for or against it is a tough decision to make.

Key influential figures have come forth to present their opinion about the same. In addition to Hawking, there’s Pope Francis, who, in November 2014 said that the ‘“right-to-die” is a sin against God and creation.” He gave his comments in response to the international movement that had been going on to legalize assisted suicide, especially in India and the UK.

Interestingly, another religious leader – Desmond Tutu – a Nobel peace laureate and archbishop emeritus of Cape Town lent his full-fledged support to Britain’s plans of legally allowing assisted death.

‘The Right To Die’

A demand for a right to die is simple, but the differential understanding of key concepts involved in the debate, means that any model of assisted suicide retains certain aspects that put its moral stature to test.

Those in favour of assisted suicide claim that every person has the right to decide what to do with their lives as long as they aren’t inflicting any harm on others. Moreover, they believe that it is a moral duty of the society to relive their fellow humans from their sufferings, instead of choosing not to help them and encouraging them to live a deplorable life.

The Conflict 

On the contrary, opponents of the same argue that people have a moral obligation to respect and preserve all forms of life. They should strive for the creation of a peaceful society wherein all humans co- exist, and not a society where questions of life and death are in the bare hands of people, holding the power of such a momentous decision.

To delve deeper into the debate, it is essential to note the key aspect of the debate, the difference between active and passive euthanasia (assisted suicide).

Active euthanasia occurs when the medical professionals deliberately do something that causes the death of the patient, such as administering a lethal substance.

Passive euthanasia occurs when the patient dies because the medical professionals withhold the common treatments necessary for keeping the patient alive, for example, switching off life support or disconnecting a feeding tube.

The Debate Of Morality

The question which one is ‘better’ out of the two, has often been equated to asking the real difference between ‘killing’ and ‘letting die’. Many people in favour of passive euthanasia argue that it is morally acceptable to withhold treatment and let the patient die.

A number of doctors agree with the same because it frees them from the non-adherence to the basic rule of medicine : “Thou shalt not kill.” The rule also says, “Thou needst not strive officiously, to keep alive.”

Is There A Real Difference After All?

However, there are some people who argue that there is no real difference between the two modes as both result in death. If stopping treatment is a deliberate act, so is deciding not to carry out a particular treatment.

Philosophers, on the other hand, argue that if we had to choose one method with higher morality, it’ll be active euthanasia, because it ends in the loss of life with lesser pain and in an easier manner.

 The International Debate

The most recent development is the California Senate’s approval of a Physician-Assisted Suicide Bill that would allow some terminally ill patients to obtain medication to end their lives. Opponents of the Bill say it is dangerous.

“Californians with terminal diseases should have the autonomy to approach death on their own terms, and I look forward to continuing this policy discussion in the Assembly,” California Senator Bill Monning, (D-Carmel), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement on June 4th,2015.

In Ireland, however, a whole new advocacy group against assisted suicide has sprung up. The group argues that legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia would hint towards a direct discrimination against the disabled. This argument happens to be the most widely given and accepted, in debates all across the globe.

Doctors claim that more often it isn’t used by older people, but by “middle-aged to younger-older” people, where the main reason seems to be a fear of disability or a fear of age-related diseases.

The Case Of India

In India, the prime reason why the debate about euthanasia began and gained force was Aruna Shanbaug,a nurse working in the KEM  hospital in Mumbai.  She was strangled and sodomized by Sohanlal Walmiki, a sweeper. During the attack she was strangled with a chain, and the deprivation of oxygen had left her in a vegetative state since 1973. A judgment was passed in wake of social activist Pinki Virani’s plea to the highest court in December 2009 under the Constitutional provision of “Next Friend”. In 2011, the Government passed a historic judgement-law permitting passive euthanasia in the country. This, however, did not help Aruna. The court rejected the plea to discontinue Aruna’s life support due to the fact that the hospital staff that treated her did not support euthanizing her.She died from pneumonia on 18 May 2015, after being in a coma for 42 years.

  • There are few reasons someone would want to die or want to see a family member die instead of watching them die of a slow painful death. Also with men who have always been prove men. Then once they can no longer stand to use the tiolet their pride is taken from them. I remembering writting a letter to the Doctor at the hospital about my father to stop his pain.

  • There are few reasons someone would want to die or want to see a family member die instead of watching them die of a slow painful death. Also with men who have always been prove men. Then once they can no longer stand to use the tiolet their pride is taken from them. I remembering writting a letter to the Doctor at the hospital about my father to stop his pain.

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Women’s major role in Shahid Kapoor’s life

Know why Shahid Kpoor says that women have been the strongest and important part of his life

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Women have played a major role in Shahid Kapoor's life
Women have played a major role in Shahid Kapoor's life. IANS
  • Shahid Kapoor talks about how women have played a major role in his life
  • Shahid Kapoor says how the condition of women has evolved in the Bollywood industry

New Delhi, Dec 9: Actor Shahid Kapoor says the strongest people in his life have been women, especially his mother Neelima Azeem who has been a single parent. He also calls his wife Mira and daughter Misha his “whole world” and says he couldn’t have been happier in his life than now.

Shahid spoke to IANS on phone from Mumbai on the sidelines of Reebok FitToFight Awards 2.0, where the brand felicitated women nominees from across the country for their spirit and courage.

“I don’t think there is anything which resonated with me so naturally as this campaign did. The strongest people in my life have been women, starting with my mother. She was a single parent and she was the most powerful and the strongest, and a person I would depend on the most,” said Shahid, who endorses Reebok with Kangana Ranaut.

“Today, Mira and Misha are my whole world and I can’t think of any reason why this initiative would not connect with me. It’s the most natural connect,” said the actor, who also believes women are fitter than men.

“Women know how to deal with situations better than most men do. They are very independent and self-assured,” he said.

So is he going to inculcate these traits in Misha too?

“I want her to discover herself, be respectful towards family and appreciate everything that she has. I want her to spread love and happiness,” he said of his little one, who was born in August 2016.

Coming from an industry where heroines often complain about not getting the equal screen space compared to their male counterparts, Shahid feels the journey of female stars has changed over the years.

“It’s important to recognise roles for their power, for their impact. It doesn’t matter whether it is male or female. I think stories that deserve being told, the characters that deserve being showcased, must be showcased. There is nothing like male or female in art. It’s just about discussing life, connecting with people and saying something substantial.

“I think it’s amazing to see that so much has been created in films which are female-centric and they are loved by audiences. It also goes to show that we have a lot of women in the audience, in case anybody had forgotten,” he said.

And what does he think about pay equality?

“I think it is changing for the positive. I think people are recognising (the issue) and it is all co-related. Today, women-oriented films have started doing extremely well and they have developed a market for themselves. Therefore, the change is naturally happening.

“Like I said before, it’s not about male or female. If you deserve to be paid a certain amount because that is how viable you are, you must be paid that,” Shahid told IANS.

His next film “Padmavati”, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, is under the scanner for alleged distortion of historical facts about the fabled Rajput queen. The film was scheduled to release on December 1, but was deferred and uncertainty over its release still looms large.

Tired of commenting on the row, he said: “I have spoken enough and I don’t feel the need to say anything more.”

He also said trolls and backlash are problems emerging from social media.

“It’s very easy to pass a comment when you don’t have to be accountable for it because nobody even knows who you are.” (IANS)

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Stephen Hawking believes Technology could end Poverty and Disease, says Artificial Intelligence could be the Worst or Best things for Humanity

Hawking said everyone has a role to play in making sure that this generation and the next are fully engaged with the study of science at an early level to create “a better world for the whole human race.”

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Stephen Hawking
Cosmologist Stephen Hawking delivers a video message during the inauguration of Web Summit, Europe's biggest tech conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 6, 2017. (VOA)

Lisbon, November 7, 2017 : Technology can hopefully reverse some of the harm caused to the planet by industrialization and help end disease and poverty, but artificial intelligence (AI) needs to be controlled, physicist Stephen Hawking said on Monday.

Hawking, a British cosmologist who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease aged 21, said technology could transform every aspect of life but cautioned that artificial intelligence poses new challenges.

He said artificial intelligence and robots are already threatening millions of jobs — but this new revolution could be used to help society and for the good of the world such as alleviating poverty and disease.

“The rise of AI could be the worst or the best thing that has happened for humanity,” Stephen Hawking said via telepresence at opening night of the 2017 Web Summit in Lisbon that is attended by about 60,000 people.

“We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management and prepare for its consequences well in advance.”

Hawking’s comments come during an escalating debate about the pro and cons of artificial intelligence, a term used to describe machines with a computer code that learns as it goes.

ALSO READ Humanity’s days are numbered, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will cause mass extinction, warns Stephen Hawking

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc and rocket company SpaceX, has warned that AI is a threat to humankind’s existence.

But Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, in a rare interview recently, told the WSJ Magazine that there was nothing to panic about.

Stephen Hawking said everyone has a role to play in making sure that this generation and the next are fully engaged with the study of science at an early level to create “a better world for the whole human race.”

ALSO READ Indian Origin Scientist Part of the team that Developed Nanotechnology-based Test that quickly Detects Zika Virus

“We need to take learning beyond a theoretical discussion of how AI should be, and take action to make sure we plan for how it can be,” said Stephen Hawking, who communicates via a cheek muscle linked to a sensor and computerized voice system.

“You all have the potential to push the boundaries of what is accepted, or expected, and to think big. We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting — if precarious — place to be and you are the pioneers,” he said. (VOA)

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What if Another Gorakhpur Tragedy Happens? 15-Year-Old Khushi Chandra Launches Initiative ‘Oxygen Gorakhpur’ to Combat Oxygen-Related Emergencies

Through her initiative Oxygen Gorakhpur, Khushi Chandra aims to raise funds for a continuous supply of oxygen to several under-resourced hospitals in Gorakhpur.

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Gorakhpur Tragedy
15 year old Khushi Sharma believes no child must be denied the right to live, or the right to breathe for which she has set up the charity 'Oxygen Gorakhpur'. VOA
  • Gorakhpur tragedy shook the entire nation starting early August after numerous children suffering from brain inflammation died in absence of oxygen
  • Over 290 children have died at BRD hospital, including 77 reported deaths from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome
  • Khushi Chandra launched ‘Oxygen Gorakhpur’ to offer assistance and provision of oxygen cylinders in case of emergencies

Gorakhpur, August 30, 2017: Child after child collapsed at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College in early August as the hospital ran out of oxygen supplies. Words fall short to mourn the deaths of over 60 children, among them several new born babies, or to slam the negligence of the hospital authorities in what has come to be known as the ‘Gorakhpur Tragedy’. As figures continue to soar even after a month, the tragedy has triggered gigantic uproar across the country. This prompted a teenager from Uttar Pradesh to launch a charity named ‘OXYGEN GORAKHPUR’.

The 15-year old face behind the not-for-profit organization ‘Oxygen Gorakhpur’, Khushi Chandra believes the Gorakhpur tragedy could have been prevented.

“This is very personal for me as it happened right at my doorstep. No child can be denied the right to life, and in this case, the right to breathe,” she said as she pioneered her righteous cause.

The organization aims to provide a secure and continues the supply of oxygen to indigent patients and hospitals across Gorakhpur in an attempt to meet sufficient requirements of the hospitals.

The organization aims to function on three dominant parameters-

  • Providing oxygen cylinders to hospitals during emergency
  • Reaching out to the needy by providing timely assistance
  • Build a strong oxygen-bank to provide round the clock support to hospitals

In the coming future, Oxygen Gorakhpur also aims to allocate oxygen provision vans for the transportation and delivery of oxygen cylinders to hospitals.

Horrific pictures of parents holding corpses of infants spanned across screens throughout mid-August with parents claiming they had died due to lack of oxygen in Gorakhpur’s Bada Raghav Das Medical(BRD) College after suffering from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and Japanese Encephalitis, two diseases that are common in India, especially during the monsoons

The Gorakhpur tragedy has exposed the harsh reality of Uttar Pradesh’s flawed public healthcare system out in the open.

Through Oxygen Gorakhpur, Khushi intends to ensure that this does not happen again, and instill a sense of citizenship and responsibility towards the larger society, among the youth and adults alike while also ensuring improvement of conditions of hospitals and their amenities.

ALSO READ: Top Highlights of PM Narendra Modi’s Speech on India’s 71st Independence Day

Additionally, the initiative will serve and protect the youth by exhibiting support, and encouragement while also empowering citizens to be the change-makers of today.

“As an accountable citizen of my city and the country, I feel responsible towards ensuring such tragedies do not happen again”, she said as per a report by ANI.

According to latest reports by PTI, over 290 children have died at the hospital from August 1 to August 28, including 77 reported deaths from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).

Chandra also observed that the Indian government’s expenditure on public health services makes up for less than 1 per cent of the GDP, which is among the world’s lowest figures. However, she is hopeful as the Modi-led government has increased spending on health services, with an underlying aim to make healthcare more affordable and available.

Chandra feels help must immediately be provided to under-resourced hospitals and must be maintained in the long run.

“I seek support from other like-minded citizens to join hands to ensure that oxygen never runs out in our hospitals” are Khushi’s words on Oxygen Gorakhpur’s official website.

Citizens can extend their support to this noble initiative by buying an oxygen cylinder, contributing funds or spreading the word about the project.

 


 

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