Why the Right to Die must be Respected

by Theresa Kemeny

Each year there are thousands of suicides that affect the lives of both individuals as well as entire societies. We judge people for deciding to end their lives, and the consequences this decision has, such as the effects on others as train drivers or paramedics. It is often forgotten that there is no humane way to end life.

The question is whether it is the act of killing oneself, or the effect that suicide has on others, which makes us so uneasy when we talk about it. Of course, it is arguable that it is not necessary to involve others by jumping in front of a train, when one could just end their life via an overdose or other, more private ways. But the trauma of finding someone hanged or poisoned is not much better. There must be possibilities to end one’s life in a humane, comfortable way without inflicting (as much) trauma on friends and family.

Nowadays in most EU countries (except for Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and to some extent Germany) incurably sick people are denied the right to decide to die in dignity, and are forced to simply suffer and await their death. Even in situations where death is inevitably close, euthanasia (the active doing by an external) or assisted suicide (actively helping someone ending his life) remains negatively judged. Seriously ill people are either forced to die with the harsh judgement of others, or to endure their sickness until the end.

The first person concerned with a person’s body should be the person themselves. No authority should impose its will on an individual, nor deny them the right to make their own decisions. If a person is inevitably going to die, how is it justifiable that they are expected to sit and wait until the end? Or worse, to traumatically end their life in a desperate last resort?

The protection of the dignity of human beings is the core of many national constitutions all over Europe, so why does this not apply to the right to die in dignity? No other decision about life choices can be made for a conscious and rational person in our modern world in which societies grant personal freedom to individuals in almost every other area. It is absurd to make an exception for this crucial question about the life and death of an individual.

When it is certain that the person is going to die, every reasonable person would acknowledge the fact that the preferred way would be to respect the choice of the individual affected, even if one would not choose this option personally. This is not to say that we should actively support and encourage everyone voicing that desire, ending the taboo that exists around death and providing a humane alternative could reduce so much harm.

Through granting the freedom to choose, the individual is given the chance to die with dignity and to opt-out of the pain and consequences that a deathly disease normally brings. Families and loved ones would be given the chance to say goodbye to an individual properly without seeing them suffer or dealing with grief after an unannounced suicide.

If modern societies would acknowledge the fact that death is inevitable and suicide is a continuous societal problem, it would be a great step towards promoting the free will of people by giving them the chance to decide over their most primitive will: to live or not to live. Accepting the will of the individual and permitting humane solutions restores the freedom of choice and full individual bodily autonomy. This would then result in fewer traumas for train drivers, family members and further facilitate the exchange about topics that are present, however, still considered as a taboo.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, click here to submit a guest post!

Image: Pixabay

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