The Right to Die

Without the right to die, there is no right to live.

The right to live means your life is yours. No one is allowed to take it from you. This right relies on the belief that life belongs to the individual. That’s why we find murder so horrible, but also why many are against capital punishment.

A duty is something you must do. You do not have a choice to give up a duty, unlike a right. People have the right to drive cars today, yet it doesn’t mean they must. Therefore, the right to live means you’re allowed to live, not must.

A person doesn’t choose whether to be born or not. Life is something that is forced upon us. The paradox is that we cannot chose between life and death unless we’re already alive. In order to choose, you have to exist first.

The problem is, if you choose not to live there is no easy way to do it. All suicide methods are painful. The quickest suicide methods are the most painful, while the less painful ones take a lot of time.

This is a terrible place to be. The damage from a bullet that missed the brain is horrible. Chocking on helium might not be so painful, but it takes time and the result of failure is equally horrifying. Either you’re living with a memory of trying to kill yourself, or you have brain damage.

Why force people into this position? A person didn’t choose to live. If the person finds that life isn’t satisfying or worthwhile, the person sees no way of improving his situation then he deserves a painless death. A person may not even be interested in improving. It could be that once you look back at your life, you decide you don’t want to carry that past anymore and want to die.

Suicidal people are trapped. Either you continue living and continue suffering, or you do something painful that might get rid of it. You do it all because two people were certain it was a good idea to force a child into the world.

Sure, everyone suffers in their life but not everyone finds the suffering worth it.

Suicide will hurt others, too, but is that a good reason?

We don’t expect a person to have sex with another if he doesn’t want to. Witholding sex is hurting. Sexual frustration can do its damage. Yet we don’t expect the attractive person to have pity sex just so the unattractive person will feel better. In fact, we push for saying that no matter how you act, nobody owes you sex.

I agree with this, and that’s why I take it further. Nobody owes you their life. A suicide of a close person is painful, but what would you prefer for that person to stay and stay in pain?

Suicide prevention is inheritenly selfish. People who don’t want you to kill yourself want it so they won’t experience grief and loss. That’s okay, because loss is terrible. Yet, if you truly cares about the well-being of a person, you wouldn’t try to ‘prevent suicide’. You would listen to the person and try to understand him. If you start off with the conclusion that suicide is bad, you’re not interested in listening.

Also, how do we know that the grief the people will feel is not as bad as the cotinous suffering the suicide person feels?

Euthanasia will actually ease the pain. Instead of impulsive suicides that will suckerpunch everyone, people will be able to prepare. There will be a date, and people could say their final goodbyes. It will also be cleaner, and the body can easily used for medical research or organ donation.

Nobody owes you anything, true. The world doesn’t owe you sex and it doesn’t owe you a fulfilling life (it also doesn’t owe you help in giving birth). If this is all true, then suicidal people owe us nothing and we shouldn’t prevent it. If we want to have a compassionate society that recognizes the pain of these tragic deaths, we need to have enough empathy to realize it’s okay to die.

Most people who object to this right, in my experience, have been successful and well-adjusted people. They assume that since life is working well for them, it therefore works well for everyone. It’s not. Some of us are born with a chemical imbalance, in the wrong environment, or made a series of mistakes we don’t want to carry any more.

We did not choose to live in the first place, so let us choose to die.
Let my people go.

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5 thoughts on “The Right to Die”

  1. I am a practicing psychiatrist who has spent the last 35 years trying to prevent people from committing suicide (among other clinical pursuits) so of course my opinion is tainted by what I do. This is not just some hypothetical scenario *for me.* It’s what I actually do, daily.

    The vast majority of people who attempt suicide and get rescued (that is, are not allowed to die) or fail in their attempt (like in a botched attempt that doesn’t kill them) come to change their minds in the future and to feel grateful for having been saved (or for having survived).

    Whether or not an individual has a *right* to do it depends exclusively on a societal judgment. In certain societies euthanasia is allowed; in others it is banned. “Rights” are conventions. I don’t think they are inherent to someone. I think they are *granted* by the societal organization that precedes and succeeds that someone (a society is larger and more enduring than an individual). In my view, it’s as simple as that. There is no real self-determination in society. If the society in which one lives grants a person this right, then he or she has this right. If it doesn’t grant it, then one doesn’t, in the views of that society, and that society would be justified in trying to stop the person. Of course one most likely would still do it. I find, in my practice, that people who are really adamant that they want to die (that minority of those who don’t change their minds), end up doing it regardless of the help they get. They always find a way. You can’t put them on suicide watch forever, so eventually they’ll do it.

    But our effort as psychiatrists is to try to avoid it, exactly to give that person the opportunity to change her or his mind, which most of them do. All this self-determination, apparently ethical stance of respect for the person’s autonomy, is actually in my opinion a form of neglect. The decent and humane thing to do given the fact that most suicidal people change their minds, is to step in and avoid the event as much as possible. Failure to intervene would be neglectful, just like if you see a blind person walking towards a cliff, you wouldn’t just cross your arms and say “oh well, he has the right to walk in whatever direction he chooses” — that would be grossly neglectful. You’d step in and prevent the fatal fall from the cliff.

    Now, you’d say, but if the person is really determined and is one of those who won’t change their minds about it, it’s a violence done to them. Sure, sure…. But the number of people who are what we could call victims of this violence is *far* outnumbered by the number of people who change their minds, therefore it is also ethically defensible, in the name of the larger good, to intervene. Just like rights are relative, ethics are also relative since they have conflicting approaches. There is the ethic of personal autonomy, but there is also the ethic of the larger good. Traditionally, in Western thinking, the latter outweighs the former.

    This is why I *am* in favor of forceful suicide watch to prevent someone from committing suicide, and most states have ruled that attempts to harm oneself are grounds for involuntary civil commitment.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. A few questions:

      – Does the ‘glad it happened’ scenario means consent is irrelevant? Are we the judges of what people will be glad something happened? Why do we make such judgments over other people’s bodies?

      – If rights are so arbitrary, would you blindly accept a society that views rape as a right? By that, a society that doesn’t grant the right to refuse sex – would you be fine with that?

      – If people are going to kill themselves anyway, why not provide them with eutanasia? Why have them resort to difficult, painful and messy methods?

      – A blind person who walks off a cliff without knowing it, doesn’t consent to falling off a cliff. That’s the difference. A person who jumps off a cliff consents to jumping off a cliff.

      – I think that your patients tell you what you want to hear, not what they really think. I suggest reading Sanctioned Suicide or alt.suicide.holiday. These are pro-choice communities with a lot of info about how to avoid your kind, what to tell psychs so they’ll leave you alone. You are, frankly, an enemy. So long as you don’t acknowledge suicide as an option, you are hostile. You need to read these message boards in order to understand this.

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