Suicide and Assisted Suicide

I posted the following as a comment to a post at Setting The World To Rights:

This is a great issue to use to test whether somebody takes individual rights seriously.

If you think that people have individual rights to their lives and to pursue their goals without the permission or approval of others, then you must acknowledge their right to make an informed decision to choose death; and that physicians assisting them are helping, not hurting, their patients (because their job is not to prolong life; but, rather, to help their patients solve their health-related problems by their own lights).

If not, then you really think that people are slaves of the state, or society, or the religious or some other tyrants.

The right to die is fundamental. If you don’t have it, then your life does not belong to you; your existence is under the control of others.

I really think this is a very telling issue. It lets you know if a person sees people as ends in themselves, or as means to the ends of others. And that’s what’s at the heart of morality.

I don’t just value life. Life is common. Bacteria are alive. What I value most is human life: autonomous people pursuing their own goals, making their own mistakes and discoveries.

If you insist on forcefully preventing people from making an informed choice to end their own lives on their own terms, or on preventing someone from helping them do it painlessly, then I don’t think you really value human life.

I think that people who would coerce others to prevent suicide (assisted or not), or to protect dependent embryos, are promoting a simplistic notion of human life that is actually destructive of what’s truly valuable about being human.


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