In the twilight hours of the morning on Wednesday, Kentucky native Earnest Chumbley picked up a gun and ended the life of his wife of 20 years, Virginia. Through his tears, he then called 911 and turned himself in for shooting her. Chumbley has made no attempt to deny that his wife died by his hands; however, he insists that his motivation was only to help end her suffering. Chumbley's actions highlight the ever-controversial topic of euthanasia and its place in modern society.
According to interviews with Chumbley, his wife suffered from terminal breast cancer for several years. Chumbley said that she asked him to stop her pain, and that hospice wasn't an option his wife was willing consider. He decided to honor her request and assist her in committing suicide. Now, he is being held on a $200,000 bond, and faces murder charges for his role in her death. In Kentucky, assisted suicide is either a class c or d felony. Chumbley could face up to 10 years for his actions.
Only four states have laws supporting euthanasia in the form of physician-assisted suicide. The federal government prohibits euthanasia under general homicide laws. Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington allow for terminally ill patients like Chumbley's wife to use their physicians as a means to end their lives while shielding physicians from facing criminal repercussions.
It's 2013, and our imperfect modern America is fraught with questions about our liberties and values. As a society, we struggle to agree on many things, especially when it comes to the value of human life. We marvel at the wonders of science and technology, but fail to grasp the reality that sometimes what we can do is not what we should do. It's hypocritical to demand others have no choice regarding the level of pain they suffer through during the end of their lives. It's time for America to have a serious talk about the virtues of euthanasia.
While advances in technology and medical treatment make it possible to prolong a person's life, other factors should maintain a role in this process. It is difficult to imagine how a lucid, vibrant person could want to end his or her life in order to forgo unbearable suffering, but why can most states accept the right to choose to end a life that can't make that decision for itself?
If you don't support euthanasia, that's your choice, and others should respect you for it since we live in a free and equal society. For the sake of those who do believe there is some value in the practice of euthanasia, however, we must acknowledge that not every choice is a popular one, but that the right to choose is inalienable. Like it or not, America needs to reevaluate its laws on euthanasia so that the next Mr. and Mrs. Chumbley don't have to make an already hard decision that much harder.