One of the things that I have been pondering over the last few months and debating on whether to do a post on is this matter of assisted suicide. This matter came up again in the news today and I am again left pondering over it.
At the outset, I am going to say that I am very conflicted about the idea of assisted suicide and I don’t think that there is an easy answer to this question.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “assisted suicide” as “the suicide of a patient suffering from an incurable disease, effected by the taking of lethal drugs provided by a doctor for this purpose.”
I was brought up a Christian and was taught (and still believe) that only God has the right to take a life. If you took a life that is murder. I was taught that suicide is wrong and growing up, assisted suicide never entered the fray of any discussions. I believe that life (all life) is sacred.
On the other end of the spectrum, I work in the legal fraternity and have studied our Constitution. One of our most basic human rights as enshrined in the Constitution is the right to life. We also have the right to dignity.
Surely, if a person has the right to life, they (meaning that person and only that person) also has the right to choose whether and when they want to end their life? Surely a person has the right to choose to live and die with dignity?
As this subject has been on my mind, I have read of many families who have family members suffering terribly from an incurable diseases. I can only imagine the emotional impact and toll that it has on the family; having to see your loved one suffer day in and day out; with no way of easing their suffering and pain; their loved one often crying to be released from their bodies. From what I have read, the suffering family member does not want to live anymore, they do not consider the life that they are living any sort of life and they certainly do not feel like they are living their life with any dignity, often having to rely on their families for their most basic, most private of needs. I can only imagine the emotional turmoil going on the heads of the family members; not wanting to see your loved one in so much pain; praying feevishly that they are released from this pain and also not really wanting to say goodbye to your loved one. I can at least speak to this emotional turmoil, having been there with my dad.
The physicians and family members who take their dying family member’s wishes to heart find themselves criminally prosecuted, for what they (rightly or wrongly) deem to be an act of love for their loved one.
What I find quite ironic is that every day, people can make decisions to end the lives of their animals. I am not speaking of the animals that are put in shelters and euthanized because there simply is no space for them. I am talking about the animals that we love, that are part of our families, that get so sick or so old, that despite our breaking hearts (that never heal), we consider their quality of life, make the decision that they would have no quality of life and then end it.
Are we saying that we can consider the quality of an animal’s life but not that of a human? We can consider the suffering of an animal but not that of a human? We can end an animal, that is in pain, life, but not that of a human?
I have listened to the arguments both for and against assisted suicide and I believe that all these arguments have merit.
All I know is that I would never want my mother or one of my family members to suffer every, single day, with no quality of life or dignity. But would I agree to assisted suicide? I really hope this is a question that I will never have to answer.