The question of death is a universal one. The question of who owns life is a bigger one. What exists beyond our consciousness, and how do we determine the existence of the afterlife? However, there is another issue I’m more concerned about and it is the quality of our life and how much control we exert over it.
If man was made to inhabit the earth, should he not also rightfully acquire a certain quality of life that makes his stay, or existence as many might put it, worthwhile. I have long maintained that our happiness and satisfaction are moving targets, ever-changing the older we get. As a subscriber to the Christian doctrine, and a believer of the utmost lordship of God over a man’s life, I am also pressed to agree with the position that the one who gives life also holds the authority, alone, to take it.
Despite, I find myself questioning this authority, and the laws of the State to protect the lives of her citizens from danger—including danger to self. This danger apparently includes taking one’s own life.
“Why does a man destroy himself or what destroys him? I would have to judge that suicide is mostly the tool of the thinking man. The right to suicide should be the same as the right to love.”
― Charles Bukowski
The question of a right to wield power over one’s own mortality pose an ethical and moral dilemma. On the one hand there is the issue of creationism, and on the other the question of choice. Should a person who has been brought to this world without their permission be granted the choice to stay or leave it?
Parents have an obligation to provide for their children and give them as fair an advantage as they can afford. They are also expected to give the best quality of life within their reach. The State is sworn to protecting that life, too, within the ambit of the law. As a result we have balanced individuals, matured and capable of deciding at some point in their lives what quality of living, made available to them, suits them most. Some aspire to live quietly; others look forward to an adventurous life. And some prefer a balance of both.
So what happens when this choice is threatened? Should the individual go on living a life below the quality they desire? Should they adjust their preferences, and perhaps, play at trying something new to satisfy the State’s responsibility to keep people alive and at no danger to themselves? Should people keep on living because their loved ones insist?
“There is a certain right by which we many deprive a man of life, but none by which we may deprive him of death; this is mere cruelty.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
I am aware that within some states in the USA, laws have been enacted that legalize physician-assisted suicides, in so far as the individuals involved are capable of making the decision on their own; have been given a six months prognosis or less, and are capable of administering for themselves a lethal dose. This is quite similar to what Swiss’ Dignitas offers: an opportunity to live with dignity and die with dignity.
It’s everything I believe life should offer—the choice to live as you want and enjoy the most of it while here. Death comes soon enough, and there’s no saying we’ll know when that will happen. But in a world filled with many uncertainties with little within our control, every man should be allowed, at the very least, a chance to live with dignity and die the same. Not ravaged by sickness, or abject poverty, or a life that appears to head nowhere.
While I understand the need for people to live with hope in their hearts; the unwavering belief that someday, somehow, things will get better, should the peculiar minority who don’t feel that way be subjected to the whims of the majority who do?
To whose benefit is it when we attempt at shoving our moral compasses on others who do not share our views on death and the right to it?
Again, I am a Christian, but over the past few months I have found myself pondering this. I don’t have the answers, and I know this is a difficult topic, but if the legislative bodies all over the world are beginning to reconsider their stance on assisted suicide in medical cases, perhaps it’s also time that we as a people began considering it, too—outside our current ethical and moral boundaries, above our fears of questioning the norm, and beyond the medical bracket.
Further reading (links open in new tab)
Physician-Assisted suicide: Legality and Morality
Assisted-suicide: A right or a wrong?
Should I help my patients die?
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