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Should Euthanasia Be Legal in China?

Some members of the Guangdong provincial top advisory body proposed that terminal cancer patients should be allowed to choose euthanasia to bring an end to their suffering at the provincial people's political consultative conference. However Guangdong's provincial legislature has rejected calls to legalize euthanasia saying such a move would be unconstitutional for the right of subsistence is protected by the Constitution. 


To address questions on whether legalization of euthanasia would be unconstitutional or if China should consider the legalization of euthanasia at this stage, Beijing Youth Daily recently interviewed Xue Ruilin, a professor of China University of Political Science and Law, and Chen Fan, a doctor of Beijing Tumor Hospital.


Reporter: Do you think that legalization of euthanasia would be unconstitutional?


Xue Ruilin: Saying that euthanasia would be unconstitutional was deduced from an explanation of law. I personally believe that the legalization of euthanasia wouldn't be unconstitutional for euthanasia expresses the real will of the patients. But I also believe that it is not the perfect time to legalize euthanasia. There will be many questions if we pass a law on euthanasia since moral principles, ethics and the quality of citizens in China are still premature at this time.


Reporter: The debate on euthanasia has lasted for many years. We know there are many different opinions in jurisprudence on it. What are they?


Xue Ruilin: There is much research on euthanasia no matter in jurisprudence or medical areas. People who support the legitimation of euthanasia believe that we should respect patients to choose how to die and that it also meets the principle of humanitarianism. Doctors and family members who help the patients to make the euthanasia happen are guilty of murder under present laws. So, they wish to release these people's liability by passing a law on euthanasia. Experts who oppose euthanasia believe that the right of subsistence is deprived by other people no matter if it is the will of the patients or not. The legitimation of euthanasia may open a door for crimes like murder. Some people have the same opinion as mine: that it is still premature to pass a law on euthanasia in China.   


Reporter: Are there many cancer patients asking for euthanasia?


Chen Fan: First, I would like to clarify that when it is the real will of the patients to ask for euthanasia. Patients usually ask for euthanasia when they are suffering extreme pain and don’t know the pain can be controlled. I don't think it is the patients' real will to choose euthanasia. It is the real will of the patients to ask for euthanasia only when they are clear-headed, not suffering any pain and master medical knowledge as a whole. None of my patients ask for euthanasia when they have received proper medical treatment and psychological treatment. As a doctor, I suggest cancer patients be given pain killing prescriptions to alleviate their suffering. We should try our best to help terminally ill patients spend the rest of their lives with less pain and more happiness.


(China.org.cn translated by Wu Nanlan, July 29, 2003)


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