It’s a story that seems to be cropping up more often these days. It’s in the newspapers, on online magazines, on Twitter feeds and other news streams. There always seems to be some kind of legal case going on where the defendants are fighting for the right to end their lives.
In a time where freedom and rights of expression are fought for valiantly across continents and through the internet, having the power to take your own life ‘legally’ is still a thorny issue.
There are countries that allow assisted suicide; these include Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada and some states in America. The scope of these versions of assisted suicide is different in all states, with Switzerland being the most liberal of them all. The rest mostly fall in the “you can only end your life legally if you are diagnosed as having less than half a year to live”.
There has always been that paradox whereby you are asked, “If killing one person could save the lives of many, would you do it?” At first it seems that the obvious answer is “Yes”, till you are confronted with the realization that you will still have to take a life. It is here that most people falter. You come to the conclusion that every single life is sacred.
Life of Pain Versus Assisted Suicide
Why is there an increasing number of people who support assisted suicide? Is it that our moral compass is not as strong as it used to be in the old days? After all, the laws banning suicide are from a bygone era. In those days, they knew that they could not give anyone an escape from life. You had to bear your burdens and your fate.
Or have we all become just more empathetic than our forebears? We are filled with tears when we see young people who have barely reached puberty dying slowly from cancer or from other life threatening health conditions. Who can say no to a fellow human being who feels pain coursing through their bodies with every breath they take? Is any one of us justified in making laws that deny people the right to make a decision about their own lives?
The Value of Life
We have talked before about how life is a shared experience; how we are all connected by invisible threads. It is thought that the individual is not merely responsible for his/her own life but rather it is society as a whole which is responsible for an individual’s life. You’ve probably spotted police officers encouraging someone not to commit suicide. You have also probably watched movies whereby they depict the lead actor/actress as talking to a person standing on the ledge of a tall building telling him/her that their life is important and that they should step down. If movies represent the ideals of the society, are we saying we believe that life should be safeguarded no matter who it belongs to? If not, do we differentiate between committing suicide and having assisted suicide for medical reasons?
Again, the waters get murky. Is it really right for me as a human being to sit idly by while someone suffers the pain of terminal illness? Is it even right for people to end their lives on their own terms? By participating in the assisted suicide situation, does that make you a killer?
So we are caught between a rock and a hard place: should we help those in need? Yes. Does participating in assisted suicide mean that you will be responsible for someone’s death (thereby making you a murderer)? Should we legalize assisted suicide?
It seems there are more questions than answers. At the end of the day, you have to look within yourself and decide what you believe in and how you can make the world around you a better place.
What’s your take on assisted suicide?