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Disabled Girl Reignites Euthanasia Debate Through Blog
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A 29-year-old disabled woman's online plea to be allowed to die has revived the euthanasia debate in China.

Li Yan, from northwest China's Ningxia province, has been suffering from motor neurone disease since the age of one. Doctors told her she would die before she turned 18 but eleven years on, she is still alive.

She can now only move her head and some of her fingers and her situation is still worsening, she explains in her blog, the title of which can be translated as "A Call To Legalize Euthanasia".

"When my parents die, I will be nothing but misery, and living will be more painful than death," Li wrote, "I must die before my parents, or I will die even more miserably."

Her parents, both in their 60s, are also worried that no one will take care of their daughter after they die. According to her mother, Li has attempted suicide several times.

"I'm not afraid of death, but I'm afraid of living with no dignity. Euthanasia will not only end my pain, but also end the pain of others who suffer like me," she said.

It took months for her to type 100 Chinese characters, but Li insisted her plea should be made public through her blog. Sometimes her mother helped her type the words, sometimes she pressed the keys with a chopstick she held in her mouth.

She also posted her proposal to legalize euthanasia on another blog opened by Chai Jing, a news presenter CCTV (China Central Television). The post attracted more than 4,000 comments.

Her case has since been discussed on CCTV news and interviews and her story has been widely published on major Chinese websites, magazines and Hong Kong-based newspapers.

In an online poll organized by Sina.com, more than 91 percent of about 4,700 voters supported her wish to die.

Liang Jian, an advisor of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said mercy killings could save people from pain, but giving the green light to the act of euthanasia may lead to abuses of the method.

Song Xiaohua, an advisor from the Jiu San Society, said that the problem lay in an inefficient social security system. "We need to improve medical care and ensure seriously ill patients are taken good care of," Song said.

But Wang Zhongcheng, a neurology expert and academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that artificially prolonging lives of patients with terminal diseases and those in a vegetative state was a drain on medical resources and caused great suffering not only to the patient, but also to their families.

He said as the population of elderly people grew in China, more people would contract illnesses and cases of incurable diseases would rise.

Wang tabled a motion at the National People's Congress in 2003, suggesting that Beijing start a trial euthanasia program, but the motion was rejected like many others brought up in the 1980s. Opponents held that the motion might blur the boundary with murder and violate a person's right to live.
(Xinhua News Agency March 23, 2007)


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