Thursday, August 02, 2007
My Defense Of Assisted Suicide
Before I launch into my defense of doctor assisted suicide let me disclose that I hail from the state of Oregon. We are the only state in which the voters have passed a law allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives in a time and place of their own choosing. The law has been challenged and sustained in the courts, and resubmitted to the voters in an attempt to have it over turned, only to have the law overwhelmingly affirmed at the ballot box.
Let me get straight to the crux of the issue by drawing an analogy. After the airplanes hit the twin towers on 9/11, there were people trapped on the upper floors who faced an awful choice: They could jump to a certain death or be burned alive. Faced with that choice there were hundreds of these poor victims who jumped to their deaths. No one reading this would be so callous as to gainsay the horrible decision these folks made. I can not imagine anyone arguing that these victims should have held on through those final agonizing moments in the hopes that a rescue would arrive. Most of us can not imagine the horrible circumstance which led to that awful choice, but we instinctively sympathize with those who chose to jump.
If one of these victims had required assistance in order to escape the flames, would the person who helped the victim reach the window in order to make the leap be held in disrepute for providing that assistance? I think not. If the person providing assistance were a doctor, would that change the answer? Again, it is hard to imagine the answer under that circumstance changing dependent solely upon the person providing help being a doctor or not.
The people faced with end of life decisions in everyday life may not be stuck at the top of a flaming skyscraper, but in many cases the situation they face is actually similar, with the exception that terminally ill patients normally face a longer period of time in pain before dying. Facing their final moments not in control of their faculties, and in unrequited agony, what interest does society as a whole have in forcing these people to endure until the bitter end?
Indeed, in nearly all of these cases it is medical technology which keeps the victim lingering long past the time when they would have expired under natural circumstance. Mankind does not "play God" by allowing a dignified death to come to the hopelessly ill and suffering amongst us if they choose it. We play God by unnaturally extending their suffering through technology and drugs.
If you or a loved one is a "right to life" proponent who believes that in all circumstances life must be extended, no one believes that death with dignity should be forced upon you. But for the vast majority of citizens who want to make their own decisions about their final moments, it is not right that society would force us to linger in agony until the bitter end against our will. We simply call for the choice to be allowed, not for anyone to choose one way or the other.
That is very true!
Excellent post! :)
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