Commentary, Health

Jim Gray: Reasoned Suicide, A Tough Liberty Issue

Back in the 1960s I saw a movie entitled “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” which contained a scene in which a horse broke its leg and was “put out of its misery” by being shot to death.  Hard as it was to do, I did virtually the same thing when my dog Lucy was deeply sick and suffering by taking her to the vet, who administered a drug that quickly and painlessly stopped her heart.  So why is this seldom done for human beings?  Because this is a tough issue for us all, and that includes for Liberty.  But there is a movement to change those dynamics.  For example, under recent California law, someone who is diagnosed by two medical doctors to have no more than six months to live and is adjudged by two qualified specialists to be competent is able to be prescribed a set of drugs that, when taken orally, will cease that person’s life.  But this is legal only if that same person voluntarily requests this be done and only if that person self-administers the drugs!  This has come to be called “reasoned suicide.”

What are the arguments against this practice?  Life is sacred!  Suicide is a violation of natural law!  To die by killing yourself is not dignified!  Suicide is a violent act, no matter how it is done!  Life is a Gift, and old age is a privilege that many millions of our fellow human beings do not get to enjoy.  You are leaving members of your family to grieve because of the selfish act you performed!  And certainly more.  Nevertheless, from my standpoint, this is a matter of Liberty.  No one should be able to persuade another to act in this fashion, which makes the decision of whether or not there is undue influence so difficult under the law.  But, once again I speak for only myself, competent individuals should be able to choose if their own life is still worth living.  Personally, I want to keep my dignity, have my life still contain some positive meaning, and do not want to be a burden upon my family or even society.  So for me, when those situations have deteriorated below personally acceptable levels, having my heart keep beating is not a desirable thing.  Accordingly, under my present thinking and if I were to make that decision, I believe I would gather my family together and announce my plan.  That would allow me to explain how much I love them, but I had concluded that my constructive life was over, and now it would be time for us lovingly to say our goodbyes.  And if that were to be my decision, after consultation with my morality, my mortality and my God, what place is it for the government to order me under penalty of law to do otherwise?

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