The story of a 28 year-old woman from China’s northern Ningxia Autonomous Region suffering from terminal cancer has sparked a nationwide debate in China over death and euthanasia, in a case that recalls but bears marked differences with the 2005 case of Terry Schiavo in the United States. Chinese media have followed the case closely over the last two days, and the topic became a Web sensation yesterday after popular CCTV investigative news anchor Chai Jing (柴静) posted a message from the cancer patient, Li Yan (李燕), on her personal Weblog conveying Li Yan’s wish that the NPC consider drafting a proposal on “peaceful dying” (安乐死), or euthanasia. [BELOW: Page 11 of Southern Metropolis Daily lays out the pros and cons of the euthanasia debate/See also PDF above.]
According to Chinese news reports, Li Yan was diagnosed with cancer at the age of six, has “lost motor function in her whole body” and is incapable of performing basic bodily functions unassisted.
Li Yan’s request to submit a proposal to the NPC for the drafting of a law on euthanasia was made via “News Probe” anchor Chai Jing’s personal Weblog. Li Yan wrote: “I treasure life, but I don’t wish to live.” The message on Chai Jing’s Weblog recalled how Li Yan had been visited by a reporter from Ningxia Daily, who reportedly asked Li Yan whether she didn’t feel it was irresponsible to her parents to wish for a “peaceful death”. Li Yan replied by telling the reporter to try lying down in bed for 24 hours without moving, Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao reported today, then said: “People have the right to live, and they also have the right to die.”
An editorial on Eastday.com expressed sympathy for Li Yan’s situation, but said a proposal by NPC or CPPCC representatives would be an “abuse of rights”: “I deeply understand the pain that illness has brought to this 28 year-old woman. I also respect her right to express her innermost feelings. But this is merely sympathy, an involuntary sympathy. If we really have NPC representatives or CPPCC committee members making a proposal on euthanasia in China today, this is clearly an inopportune abuse of rights.”
“It is not time for a law on peaceful dying” (Chinese), Eastday.com, March 14, 2007
[Posted by David Bandurski, March 14, 2007, 12:57pm]