Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Right to Die

I’m not quite sure where to stand on the Right to Die (euthanasia) issue. Should a severally suffering individual be allowed to commit suicide with their doctor’s assistance? Should there be a ban on medically assisted suicides?
I was first exposed to the debate about euthanasia in discussions about such matters with my mother when I was growing up. Later in a high school class where the topic came up, I believed that suicide itself was wrong, but I believed in the right of an individual choose for themself. One thang I’m not sure I was clear on was whether euthanasia is the same as suicide.
These days, my opinion is still pretty much the same in context, but the reasoning is much clearer. Of course, this makes it harder to know where to stand exactly on the issue. In principle, I believe that the individual has the right to determine their own life. But morally, I know that killing one’s self is wrong. Violence is allowed to defend one’s own life or the lives of loved ones, but it is not allowed to take one’s own life. Whether in mercy or in despair or in cruelty, one should not act in such a way against themself.
However, under rule of law, the right of the individual to any choices about themself is important to keeping the government from intruding in the lives of its citizens. The principle of keeping the government out of our lives is just as important because so many other morally correct doctrines can be threatened with too much control given to the authorities. If the government is given the right to tell an individual they cannot control when they die, the door may be opened to forcing unnatural methods to keeping people alive well beyond what nature intended.
Does the Right to Die only mean euthanasia, or does it include the right to refuse medical care that may or may not prevent the onset of a life threatening condition? That creates a pretty damn big gray area that brings the whole question of Right to Die into a state of confusion.
Then there’s the biggest problem with euthanasia. How can the government protect its citizens from being victimized by impatient relatives that may have motives for pursuing euthanasia upon their “loved one”? Even with the concept of keeping an intrusive government out of our lives in mind, it’s hard to justify allowing the possibility of such a scenario.
So, for me, right now, I think the best course of action is to not allow euthanasia. However, I think allowing the person to control what treatments they receive (or not) should be protected. This means a person (or that person’s immediate family, with the spouse having the second say, then if no spouse, the parents to have the third say) has the right to determine whether or not to be kept alive by machine, drugs or other treatment, but that the person may not choose to take the actual action to kill themself. Removing life support is OK because it is letting nature take its course. Euthanasia is not OK because it is a violent unnatural action that ends a life before its time.

No comments: