Why I believe in the right to choose assisted suicide

Why does anyone reserve the right to control the life, or death, of someone else? The choice of assisted suicide lies with the individual, and whoever they choose to share in the decision.

Why does anyone reserve the right to control the life, or death, of someone else? The choice of assisted suicide lies with the individual, and whoever they choose to share in the decision. That could be their doctors, friends, partner or family.

If that isn’t you, then why should you have a say? Whether you are a rights activist, religious leader, medical professional, or politician, the decision is not yours.

Assisted suicide, also known as euthanasia or assisted dying, is the practice of helping severely-ill people to die at their own request. Currently, the practice is largely illegal with a few exceptions including Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium and the US state of Oregon.

Many people travel to legal clinics abroad, such as Dignitas in Switzerland, but those who accompany them can be condemned or prosecuted on return to their home country.

The Right to Die

Many argue that this is a human rights issue, whereby everyone deserves the right to live. I agree, but surely the right to live also extends to the right not to live? Nobody is being forced into assisted suicide, it is merely promoting a freedom of choice, and taking that away is a breach of rights in itself.

One of the biggest oppositions to the right to die is from a religious viewpoint, where many see suicide as a sin. If your religion disapproves of suicide, assisted or otherwise, that is your choice to not consider it as a personal option.

But if an individual does not hold a religious belief against suicide, then why do you have the right to condemn them?

The Dignified End

Perhaps one of the strongest debates comes from within the medical community, as assisted dying requires the aid of a qualified physician. Under the International Code of Medical Ethics: “A doctor must always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life from conception.” 

Those who consider assisted suicide, terminally ill or severely disabled patients, feel that they have already lost their quality of life, and believe that they have a right to end their life on their own terms.

While you can argue for advancements in medical research and treatments, that isn’t true for everyone. For some people there is no hope for a cure, only the future of a worsening life. With such a focus on giving people a chance to live, to extend their life, why can’t the same chance be given to those who don’t want to draw out a life of suffering?

In legal assisted suicide clinics, a medical doctor must be involved in the prescription of the right drugs for euthanasia, with appropriate consultations made, and treatment carried out with the utmost care.

Many who have used assisted dying have chosen to do so in the earlier stages of a terminal illness, so that they many end their life with dignity, while they are still capable of making the decision.

The Last Choice

It is estimated that there are over 20 million attempted suicides each year. The number of people who have thought about and considered suicide would be staggering. While many found another option, through different treatments and care, assisted suicide is a choice for those who do not have another option. Euthanasia is a last resort.

Guidelines are in place at assisted dying facilities, stating that the patient must have an unbearable physical or mental suffering, and a lasting desire to die. The decision must be their own, with a clear understanding of their prognosis and options available, finding no other acceptable solution.

If you consider yourself to be out of options, with no other choice, why should someone else decide that you must continue to live a life of unbearable suffering?

Stopping assisted suicide won’t put a stop to suicide. Trying to take one’s own life can be disastrous and traumatic, not just for the individual. With assisted dying, the trauma inflicted on others is minimised, as next-of-kind must be informed, and the patient’s affairs put in order.

It is a thought-out, considered, and ultimately more humane choice, which should not be condemned.

Finally, some argue that by allowing assisted suicide we will pressure those in a similar position to make the same choice, and increase the loss of life. Yet every case is different, and giving one individual the right to end their own life in no way diminishes the value of another person’s life.

Giving people the right to die, doesn’t overrule the right to live, it just allows a right to choose.

This article was written in reply to this Kettle article of 26 July.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Image: Reuters