Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Right to Die

Recently I was asked by a journalist what I thought of assisted suicide and the right to die. Here's what I told them: everyone has a right to die at whatever time they choose and for whatever reason they think is sufficient to warrant their wish to end their life. Unless, that is, there are special circumstances which impose a moral duty on them to stay alive. For instance, you may have a duty of care for your children or spouse, or you may have incurred debts that others will have to pay off when you are gone. Yet in the absence of such special circumstances you have the right to die, and nobody has a right to forcefully prevent you from bringing about your own death. They may do their best to persuade you to change your mind, but they have no right to force you to stay alive if you really don’t want to. Of course, it may not always be wise to throw your life away. Things may appear gloomy, but sometimes things change for the better, so that if you still could, you would later regret your premature decision. But then again, that possibility is not always there. Sometimes we can be reasonably certain that the situation will stay just as bad as it is, if it’s not getting worse. In that case we should be allowed to set an end to our life. This, however, does not necessarily mean that, when we wish to die but cannot do so without the help of other people, we also have a right to be assisted by them. It is never my duty to help you to die, though I may choose to do so out of love, or out of compassion. How we regulate assisted suicide, though, is a different question entirely.

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