Monthly Archives: November 2014

Assisted Suicide–Follow-up

I received the following questions in response to my blog “A Real Right to Life,” which defended assisted suicide. (Since I was asked privately, I am omitting the person’s name.)

I am a high school student researching about assisted suicide and I came across your article “A Real Right to Life.” Can you answer a few questions surrounding this issue?

1. Suicide, in general, goes against many religious beliefs. To end one's life is [an act] of selfishness and an act against God cymbalta anxiety. Do you think that this is the case?

2. Many people feel that legalizing euthanasia will result in misusing it and asking for the medication when it [is] not necessary. Depressed people who want to die (a symptom for many bad illnesses, even if it isn't fatal) will be euthanizedthere is no way every case can be stopped.

3. Giving someone medication to die is murder, no matter the situation. Why do you not classify this as murder?

Thank you so much!

P.S.  By the way, I have a grandmother who was suffering from breast cancer. My mother told me that she wanted to die, but my mom could not agree to it and insisted on more chemotherapy. She did die later, but I can see how split the people are between supporting it and opposing assisted suicide. The patients support it, and the outsiders who can't feel the pain oppose it… isn't that interesting?


MY REPLY:

1. Yes, this is an act of selfishness. But I use that term in its precise meaning. It refers not to some predator who lives by victimizing others, but to an honest individual concerned with sustaining his own life by his own efforts. If your life is your own, then every action you take to further it is an act of selfishness. And those who claim that you have a duty to sacrifice yourself—that your life is not your own and that the demands of others should take precedence over your own interests—will indeed condemn suicide as an act of selfishness. (For a fuller discussion of this issue, see The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand.)

2.  This argument is simply used as a rationalization to prevent people from having full control over their own lives. Nothing makes this argument uniquely applicable to suicide. Every freedom we enjoy, from reading a book to buying a share of stock to climbing a ladder, would be denied if we have to take into account the possibility that someone could be harmed while exercising it. With respect to suicide, the person must be mentally competent and must not be in any way deceived about the nature of his condition. But once those conditions are met, no one is entitled to stop him from taking the actions he deems best for him. He has a right to control his own life. If a person has a terminal illness and has made a considered decision that he no longer wants to live, should he be compelled to suffer against his will simply because someone else could conceivably make a wrong decision?   

3. Murder is the killing of an (innocent) person against his will. The concept of murder, and of any genuine crime, entails the use of force, which means: physical action against another person, or his property, without his consent. Where there is consent there is no crime. It’s the difference between borrowing and stealing. Or between sex and rape. Assisted suicide can be considered murder only if one already assumes that an individual’s life belongs to God or society, whose lack of consent is then decisive.

A Real Right to Life

Several days ago 29-year-old Brittany Maynard exercised the final act of sovereignty over her life: she chose to end it.

She had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and, earlier this spring, had been given six months to live by her California physician. She considered spending her last days in a hospice, but, she explained:

[E]ven with palliative medication, I could develop potentially morphine-resistant pain and suffer personality changes and verbal, cognitive and motor loss of virtually any kind. Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that.

So she and her husband uprooted and moved to Oregon, one of five states that allow doctor-assisted suicide.  There, she obtained a lethal dose of barbiturates. She said she wanted “a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable. . . . I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.”

Conservatives largely oppose right-to-suicide laws. Many criticized Brittany Maynard’s decision.  A Vatican official, Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, called it “an absurdity,” declaring that suicide “is a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and toward those around us.” The National Right to Life organization quotes a woman condemning physician-assisted suicide because “it does not strengthen the common good, but only alienates, separates and dismantles us as a people who truly care for one another.”

Here’s a radical thought for conservatives: Brittany Maynard has a right to life—to her life. And a right to one’s life requires, as an inseparable corollary, the right to terminate it. What else is a right to some action if not the freedom to choose whether or not to engage in it?

Conservatives object to a “nanny state” that tells us we must have smoke detectors in our homes and may not buy large cups of sugared soda. Why then don’t they convey any similar outrage toward a paternalistic state that orders us to remain alive against our will?

Conservatives want legal “personhood” to begin at the moment of conception, and are eager to grant microscopic zygotes a “right to life.” But when it comes to the lives of actual human beings—such as the woman who seeks to end her unwanted pregnancy or the terminally ill person who seeks to end her unwanted suffering–their concern for rights disappears.

In reality, hard-core conservatives don’t believe in a right to live; what they uphold is a duty to live. They believe that you have an unchosen obligation to keep yourself alive because such is the divine, or the public, will. But if you may not end your life unless God or society gives you permission, then living is not an act of freedom on your part—it is an act of servitude.

The right to take one’s own life, and to be voluntarily assisted by doctors, should be unequivocally acknowledged.  As long as a person is mentally competent, he should be legally allowed to decide whether to live or to die.  His life, after all, is his own. As Brittany Maynard eloquently expressed this idea: “My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don't deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?”

Why indeed? That’s a question her detractors are unable to answer.♦♦


This was first published on 11/12/14 by Huffingon Post /huff.to/1BbfvtS