A right to kill, but no right to die?

A right to kill, but no right to die?

Man, Michael, is it that bad? I know you’re turning 70 next week, but I didn’t really think you’d rather go ahead and end it all right now…

Sorry, that was a bit of a cheap shot, and if we’re going to really look at assisted suicide, or what we are really talking about here, physician-assisted suicide is a serious matter, and it’s probably preferable to keep the jokes to a minimum.

Let’s leave the religious aspects out of this for a minute (I’ll get back to that later), and look at the legal aspects of choosing to end one’s own life. Writer and actor Ricky Gervais once quipped, “I didn’t choose to be born, and one day, I will die, and cease to exist forever.” That’s a very serious and dour take on life, but it’s a fact that none of us were given the option of being born. We are brought into this world and there are so many things, good and bad, that can happen to us, much of which is beyond our control.

So, with that in mind, what if? What if one of those things that happens to us is that a disease or a calamity of some sort leaves us with no quality of life? What if every day is agony? What if every single thing that brought us joy is no longer accessible to us? Chronic pain, paralysis, loss of the senses, severe incurable disease that slowly eats us alive?

If we had no choice in being born, why should we be forced to accept these tortures? Why should, if I am so miserable and so unhappy and so unable to have any quality of life, should I be forced to endure it?

Well, because that’s the law… at least it is here in Arkansas and all but seven other states. Now, I’m a firm believer that one should have the right to do with one’s life as one wishes. But I do understand there are practical matters to consider (again, we’ll get to the spiritual issues, I promise).

Let’s take a look at Mr. Dan Douglas’s bill. This measure, had it been approved, would have legalized physician- assisted suicide for terminally-ill patients — to basically get it over with, to end the suffering, to die on their own terms.

Now, I won’t claim to have a firm grasp on all the particulars of physician-assisted suicide. I remember back in the 1990s when Dr. Jack Kevorkian first brought the issue to the forefront of debate in the U.S. Kevorkian went to great pains to champion for “the right to die” for his patients, ultimately going to prison for eight of the last eleven years of his life after being convicted of second-degree murder for euthanizing a terminally-ill cancer patient.I think you hit the nail on the head, Michael, when you said the bill’s primary cause of death here in Arkansas was, as you put it, “because these politicians want absolutely no part in taking sides on this measure, because they are afraid doing so will have a negative impact on their personal political careers.”

Which is equally true and ridiculous. Do they think these suffering people are going to vote for them?

Looking for some information on this (again, not an expert) I came across a woman whose case I had heard about a few years ago but had forgotten about. Her name was Brittany Maynard. While dying from inoperable, incurable brain cancer, she elected to spend all the time she had left championing the right to access to “aid in dying,” as it was called in the California legislature. Once she had reached the end of her fight, she received assistance in ending her life — in Oregon, where it was legal.

So, do you have the right to end your own life? I would think so. But here’s the question? Should you? And here’s were the religious part comes in. Virtually every mainstream religion agrees that suicide is a sin. “Thou shall not kill” includes killing of thyself. In Christianity, we are taught that God has a plan for all of us, and even if that plan includes disease, debilitation and pain, it is incredibly unlikely that is includes suicide, physician-assisted or otherwise.

By Ralph Hardin

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