Euthanasia debate gets local example

POSTED: 09/23/11 12:35 PM

St. Maarten – Mark Deygoo, who was shot at least five times by robbers on Wednesday, was clinging at press time on Thursday. His family had decided earlier in the day to take him off life support as doctors at the St. Maarten Medical Center offered little hope that he’d survive. The doctors also advised against having him airlifted to the Dominican Republic, because the pressure at high altitude during the flight could have sped him to his death.
“For me, I prefer to leave my husband here because I know he has no feelings his body and he is already dead,” Deygoo’s distraught wife said while attempting to stay strong for her eight year old daughter.

Injuries
A CT scan seen by this newspaper reveals that Deygoo was shot five times. Several bullets lodged in his neck, while others passed through his hand and torso. Doctors reportedly believe the shot to the businessman’s head is what put him in such serious condition, as the bullet pierced his skull and shattered.

Visitors
Emotional family members were not without support as scores of people went to the St. Maarten Medical Center to visit with the family. Several people also offered prayers for Deygoo’s recovery.

Broader discussion
Deygoo’s situation and the choice his wife had to make on whether to sustain life support or transport him to the Dominican Republic provides a local example for society’s debate on the merits of ending someone’s life when they are terminally ill or no longer able to make the decision. Legally making such a choice is called euthanasia.
The debate here is in its earliest days but Justice Minister Roland Duncan, who’s tabled a new penal code in Parliament, believes it should pick a speed and a decision taken on his proposal to legalize euthanasia. One of the minister’s only reference points is the debate and court proceedings that occurred in the United States around the decision by Teresa Maire (Terri) Schindler Schiavo’s husband in 1998 to end her life because she was in a vegetative state and doctors had been unable to bring her back to awareness. The court battle between the husband and Schiavo’s lasted seven years before a circuit court judge ordered doctors to follow her husband’s decision.
“I know it’s not easy and I recognize that these are extremely sensitive, but I refuse to do what was done on Curacao and Aruba where they swept the issue under the rug. All the ministers said let’s pass this criminal code now and come back tomorrow. Come on. Let’s confront our problems as they arise, because who’s going to come back? Me? Next year to go re-discuss this? I mean we’re going to have to discuss it sooner or later,” Duncan said on For the Record on Sunday.
Though he wants a discussion in which he or ministry technocrats can participate and he believes that Parliament – with its committees and ability to have hearings – is the best place for a debate on public sentiment around euthanasia, Duncan says he will not press the issue.
In the minister’s personal view euthanasia is necessary so that people on the brink of death will be able to make the choice to die.
“I have a tendency to look at it very individualistic. It’s me who is in pain. It’s me who is suffering. I don’t know that I would want to be kept alive artificially and if they pull that plug I die. Now if I’m fully, functioning and talking and conversing and I’m participating in society then ok yes, but don’t tell me the person is terminal, you know he’s going, he’s in pain,” Duncan said.

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