Assisted suicide, mercy killing, euthanasia, whatever you want to call it and depending upon the involvement of a second party, it is all a hotly debated subject. I certainly have my opinion and I do insist that I respect the opposing view on this. First of all, we live in an era that enables us to live much longer and even much less productive lives than ever before in history.
Once upon a time if our hearts could no longer beat we died. If our organs finished their life span we died. We didn’t have machines to keep us alive past otherwise fatal accidents or at the end of terminal diseases. Now, many people believe that the short time we exist here, on earth, is all that exists. For them it is probably a simple matter of life versus death. I am not one of those people and I believe, as do many, that life beyond life is the ultimate destination. So this makes it a much more complicated issue.
Many times the choice is dying slowly and painfully or quickly at one’s own hands. There simply isn’t the option of living, just prolonging the dying process or helping it along. As a priest once said, there is a blessing in” taking the early bus home” sometimes. Now here is where the law of the land would better serve its citizens if it didn’t force itself into such a personal area of their lives. It takes a certain amount of arrogance to assume anyone has the right to force a human being to spend more time dying than is comfortable. I know of a family who was harassed by police, after making the painful decision to discontinue chemotherapy for their child who begged them to let him stop. After much research, they concluded that his particular disease was always fatal, sooner or later. They chose to not force their son to go through months of pain before his death just to satisfy their desperate need to keep him alive as long as possible, at the great expense of their little boy.
In the past I would vehemently argue for the legalization of any of these death decisions but I have been given pause in talking to someone who disagrees. I was told, by a family physician that many like minded, in that profession, have been guiding patients to a quiet, painless death for generations with no noise from lawmakers. It was suggested that if legalization were to come about that it would be legislated with so much red tape as to render it useless, since the patient would have time to die a slow, painful death while a bunch of strangers debated the validity of their endeavors.
The irony is that many of the very people who insist that any quality of life is better than death happen to be opposed to birth control. So we are not supposed to decide when to bring life into the world (or not) and we also have to prolong it at any and all cost. Even though science has given us more freedom in controlling the timing of pregnancies we are not to use it but when science has enabled humanity to keep sicker and sicker humans alive longer, to the point of horribly long deaths, we are actually supposed to be OBLIGED to avail ourselves of it! How does that make sense to anyone?
I guess, then, that this is ultimately a question of morals or values and I am firmly on the side of one’s right to make his/her own end of life decisions since maybe the law, whichever way it sways, is often rendered voiceless, as well it should.