Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Monday, June 6, 2011

The New "Dr. Death": Angel or demon?

I realize this is certain to cause some strong feelings, but I hope it is taken in the spirit offered - not trying to force agreement with my thoughts, but rather to stimulate people to examine what they believe, rather than simply cling to that belief blindly. Whether or not this changes anyone's feelings on the subject, I thank you for at least reading and considering what I have to say.

I just finished reading an article in the Jewish World Review entitled, "Meet the New Dr. Death" (Dr. Kevorkian has passed away and another doctor has been "cited" as his spiritual replacement.) It struck me that the author appeared to be criticizing the assistance provided by this doctor and the associates who help to carry out the wishes of these people choosing to end their own lives. Consequently, I sent this in an email to JWR as a comment:

Is it not more than interesting that so many in America have no difficulty accepting the killing of a fetus, the "termination of a pregnancy" which causes the death of what is absolutely certain to become a human being - even if you believe it is not a human life until birth. This killing is not done at the request of the fetus itself, of the proto-human, if you will, but by the decision and will of another, in a planned and premeditated manner. If done to any living human, it would legally, and actually, be murder. And those assisting, counseling in its favor, would indeed be guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.

Yet many of the same people who have no difficulty accepting and approving of the death of what would otherwise soon be a human being are unwilling to allow someone to choose his or her own death. Unwilling to allow them to seek help in ending their own personal suffering from cancer, from degenerative diseases such as ALS or Alzheimer's, which will eventually leave them helpless and perhaps even mindless, unable to have any quality of life whatsoever. These people who also wish not to be a burden to their spouse or family, who do not want to cause their spouse to end up in poverty from the expense of their illness and care. People who may cringe at the thought of years of personal care where strangers may be hired to attend to their most personal bodily functions, as they cannot.

I have been a "pro-choice" believer for most of my life. I have known people very dear to me who have chosen to terminate a pregnancy, and still feel that their choice was proper for them at the time they made that choice. I do not sit in judgment of them.

That being said, I find myself feeling more and more that it may be wrong to end life in that fashion. But then again, I find myself unable to hunt or kill animals now, and even refrain from killing most insects I come across. The Buddhist concept of "ahimsa" (which _does_ support self-defense) makes more sense to me these days. I am not against hunting, and while I would prefer people hunted only to eat the meat of their kill and not for trophies, I will not question their right to do so. I believe I could hunt again if I needed to in order to feed myself, my family, or friends.

This change in my worldview, however, does not cause me to think that it is immoral for someone to choose to do what they wish with their own life. Yes, there are times I would disapprove, as when children are affected by the death of that person, or if it leaves a spouse or family in dire straits. But that disapproval would be merely an emotional response on my part, one that I would not seek to force upon anyone else. I believe that a person's property should be theirs to do with as they please, and we own nothing as completely and as fully as our own life.

Simply because society feels it has the right to control that life - through incarceration, through forced psychiatric treatment and medication, through laws that affect what we can do with and to ourselves - does not make it right. I firmly believe it is every individual's right to decide - if they are able - the time of their own death. If they wish it to be the last possible moment, they will not seek to end it themselves. But if they _do_ wish to pick a time short of that, it is their right to do so. Getting assistance in achieving that goal should not be illegal. Coercion or force in achieving an early demise - such as happens when the State picks the time, through a court-ordered sentence of death, or the sentence of death administered by a SWAT team in your own home, should be illegal. If the State can choose to terminate our lives before we would wish to, why can we not also utilize our right to terminate our own life when we choose to do so? Which choice is more moral?

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Sorry, folks. I was completely ignorant about comment rules. Anyone can post, but I'd prefer a name, even if it is made up. Anonymous posts just seem cheap, if you know what I mean. Also, if you want to argue a point, that's fine. Cheap shots and name calling towards me or another person commenting (ad hominem) is rude and will get you banned. Other than that, I'd love to get some comments.