Is legalisation of assisted suicide an option for China?
Chen Hong, a dutiful son in China’s western city of Chongqing, believed he was helping his mother when he handed her poison.
A court in Chonqing thought otherwise. The man was sentenced to three years in prison last week for murder, reported Chinese newspapers.
Chen’s mother, Ms Zhu, received serious injures to her legs in a hit-and-run accident in Chongqing in November.
After being treated briefly in a local hospital, Zhu told her son she wanted to go home and Chen agreed.
However, the medicine she was taking soon stopped working and it became too painful for bed-bound Zhu to eat or move, said Chen.
Zhu repeatedly asked Chen to let her kill herself and end her pain, according to Chen.
“I blamed her for having those thoughts initially, but then I couldn’t watch her suffer any more,” said Chen.
Chen eventually complied and left a bottle of poison beside her bed. He found the bottle empty and his mother dead the next morning.
Chen’s conviction has drawn heated online discussion.
Many of China’s netizens showed sympathy for Chen, who according to the court received a light sentence due to the circumstances.
“I imagine it could only have been equally painful for him to end her life,” said a Sina Weibo user.
Some of Chen’s neighbours’ submitted a statement to investigators testifying that Chen had been a responsible son who took good care of his mother.
I agree that it’s time for China to discuss the legalisation of assisted suicide, but I also think we need to find out why our medical system failed one of our senior citizens.
Were her injuries truly beyond help? From the newspaper reports, it sounds as if they were serious but treatable.
So what prompted Zhu to give up hospital treatment? Was it because the expense was so great that she preferred to die than end up in debt?
It appears that many of China’s senior citizens, after working hard all their lives, can’t save enough to cover the cost of health care.
They cannot always rely on their children, who are often without sufficient resources, and they can’t rely on the state.
Assisted suicide may be an option, but China needs to talk about saving lives before talking about ending them.