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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.

1 COMMENT

  1. 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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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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11-year-old Indian-origin Arnav Sharma beats Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking in Mensa IQ test in UK

Wonder boy Arnav Sharma gained a score of 162 -- the maximum possible result you can achieve on the paper

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Arnav Sharma
Arnav Sharma, Wikimedia
  • Arnav Sharma, from Reading town in southern England, passed the infamously difficult Mensa IQ test a few weeks back with zero preparation
  • His mark in the exam, which primarily measures verbal reasoning ability, puts him in the top one per cent of the nation in terms of IQ level
  • The “genius benchmark” is set at 140 and Sharma gained a score of 162 — the maximum possible result you can achieve on the paper

London, July 1, 2017: An 11-year-old Indian-origin boy here has scored 162 in the prestigious Mensa IQ test, two points higher than geniuses Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Arnav Sharma, from Reading town in southern England, passed the infamously difficult test a few weeks back with zero preparation. Mensa IQ test was developed in Britain to form an elite society of intelligent people, the Independent reported.

The “genius benchmark” is set at 140 and Sharma gained a score of 162 — the maximum possible result you can achieve on the paper.

His mark in the exam, which primarily measures verbal reasoning ability, puts him in the top one per cent of the nation in terms of IQ level.

ALSO READ: Sikh community in London helps deadly Grenfell Tower fire Survivors

“The Mensa test is quite hard and not many people pass it, so do not expect to pass,” Sharma told the daily.

Sharma said: “I had no preparation at all for the exam but I was not nervous. My family were surprised but they were also very happy when I told them about the result.”

The boy’s mother, Meesha Dhamija Sharma, said she kept her “fingers crossed” during his exam.

“I was thinking what is going to happen because you never know and he had never seen what a paper looks like,” she said.

Sharma said his hobbies are coding, badminton, piano, swimming and reading. He also has an unusually good geographical knowledge and can name all the capitals of the world.

A spokesperson for Mensa praised the 11-year-old boy, saying: “It is a high mark which only a small percentage of people in the country will achieve.”

Mensa was founded in 1946 in Oxford by Lancelot Lionel Ware, a scientist and lawyer, and Roland Berrill, an Australian barrister, but the organisation later spread around the world.

Its mission is to “identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity”. (IANS)

 

Next Story

Indian Origin Girl Rajgauri Pawar tops Mensa IQ test in front of Britain

Pawar has outshined the greatest scientists on earth to achieve the prestigious feat, which is recorded by only one percent of those who appear for the elite society’s entry paper.

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Rajgauri Pawar outshines Einstein and Hawkings, Source- Twitter

London, May 15, 2017: Indian-origin girl Rajgauri Pawar has aced Stephen Hawking and Einstein in British Mensa IQ Test to get the IQ of 162 which is the highest IQ possible for the under-18 group.

This 12-year-old girl appeared in the British Mensa IQ test a month ago and has scored 2 points higher than the world renowned scientists.

Pawar has been invited to join the coveted Mensa IQ academy as a member.

It is believed that Mensa is the largest and oldest high-IQ society in the world. Anyone who can demonstrate an IQ in the top 2 percent of the population, measured by a recognized or approved IQ testing process can become the member of this society, mentioned TOI report.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

According to Mensa, she is one of only 20,000 people to achieve the score worldwide.

Pawar said, “I was a little nervous before the test but it was fine and I’m really pleased to have done so well.”

Pawar has outshined the greatest scientists on earth to achieve the prestigious feat, which is recorded by only one percent of those who appear for the elite society’s entry paper.

Pawar’s father, Dr. Suraj Kumar Pawar said, “this wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of her teachers and the support which my daughter enjoys every day at school.” Rajagauri’s proud teachers and

Rajagauri’s proud teachers and elated schoolmates at Altrincham Girls’ Grammar School cannot stop celebrating the big feat achieved by their student. “We are very proud of Rajgauri,” said Andrew Barry, her maths teacher. “Everybody is delighted. She is a very well-liked student, and we all expect great things from her!”.

In 2016, another Indian-origin boy, Dhruv Talati attained the coveted score of 162 to ace Stephen and Einstein.  Dhruv Talati, who lives in Ilford, London topped the high-IQ society’s Cattell B paper.

These young buds are being named as the most intelligent people across the globe.

– prepared by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram, Twitter: @NikitaTayal6