Way back in my first blog post I tried to make the point that rights were something that could not be taken from you but which you could relinquish voluntarily. This was because although they are afforded to empower each individual to live their own life to force people to abide by certain rights when they do not want them actually undermines their entire purpose. There were a few possible cases which I had in mind when I wrote that and I want to say a little bit more about one of them today, the right for someone to choose when they want to end their life.
The right to life is incredibly important as it serves to protect each individual. However sometimes that right can be taken too far, when people turn that right to life into an obligation to live and enforce their decision on another person regardless of what suffering it may cause them. To put it bluntly that just isn’t their decision to make. It’s your life and so long as you do not harm anyone else you should be free to live or die as you please, especially if you are facing inevitable suffering or unbearable conditions.
For some people the idea of months of a drawn out painful death are, unsurprisingly, less desired than the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones and end their life on their own terms, peacefully and pain free. Why should a person have to endure years of lying motionless in a bed when they loose all muscular control just because someone else wants them to? People should have the option to go when they feel it is their time without being stigmatised for it. In some cases that may also require assistance.
The debate over assisted dying/euthanasia has been rekindled in South Africa after the return of Sean Davison. He served five months in prison in New Zealand after helping his mother to die. Davison has now helped found DignitySA to help campaign for reforms over assisted dying in South Africa. To start with they have a petition on Change.org, which I would encourage you to sign.
While the issue might have flown under the radar in South Africa, the topic has been given attention in a number of countries. In the UK, author Terry Pratchett, who has been diagnosed with alzheimers, has advocated for assisted suicide on a number of public platforms such as his Richard Dimblebey lecture in 2010 and controversial 2011 documentary Choosing to Die. The latter of which involves footage of an assisted death performed at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal both for citizens and foreigners. Switzerland has had assisted suicide for a number of decades and public support for the practice is still strong. The Dignitas clinic is also where Eric MacDonald’s wife went to die. He has subsequently started a blog named Choice in Dying “to explore issues related to choice in dying and the right to die.”
This is different to saying that someone, such as a doctor, can choose to euthanise someone else. This is saying that people should have the choice to end their own life. No one else can make that choice for them. So how do you feel about the topic? Should people be allowed to choose their own end? Is there a reason to let them suffer when they would choose not to?