This is an example that shows why libertarianism is so hard for people to embrace. The libertarian ethos is that people have a right to chose if they live or die, the right not to be protected from themselves. But most people reading such stories know in their gut that killing yourself because you’re an alcoholic is wrong. So people are left with a strong human desire, an inborn desire, to help others but must intellectually agree that it’s the other person’s life. That’s a hard thing for people to do.
I’m personally dead set (pun always intended) against it. I think people can be of value to others to the end. This is a moral judgement that I feel strongly about. But does my personal belief mean it should be illegal? Below are some thoughts on the matter. I say some because this is one of those issues that I reserve the right to think some more about. I don’t touch upon assisted suicide just suicide in general. Assisted is a different matter. It makes it very easy to murder and get away with it with a few forged documents it is then legal. People have been using fake suicide to cover murders for centuries and detectives are pretty good and figuring out the truth but if this is done with signed paperwork and the fair hand of a clinician, well, not so easy. But below are the thoughts I had after I read the article that is linked below.
“They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice…that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.” – Arthur Shopenhauer
It seems at first blush to be the sort of thing only a leftist would support. Socialist movements are famous for killing off the old and infirm or the otherwise unwanted. Perhaps there is no better signal of this than abortion which is wholesale killing of the unwanted. Regardless of how a leftist may think of abortion even they can not argue that it stems from the fact that the child is unwanted. In a socialist society the unwanted are those that are old, sick, mentally ill, or otherwise useless to the common good.
[epq-quote align=”align-right”]I think what happened in the story below is disturbing and disgusting. It runs against all my personal morality and my deeply held love of life.[/epq-quote]Suicide, of course, is not illegal. The person is dead so that wouldn’t make much sense. Attempted suicide on the other hand has traditionally be so though many states in America have removed that from the books. The reason is simple, suicide is a sign the person needs help and is not in their right mind. Having a law in place allows the state to step in and force that person to get help for whatever it is that’s causing them to want to kill themselves.
Suicidal ideation is a sign of a mental disorder or psychological problems. Take the story that prompted me to ponder this: the man in the story is using alcohol to self medicate. He has issue on top of issue. It’s clear to him he can’t fix it and he believes that no amount of state intervention will either. So he ends it how he wants to.
I believe that life is valuable in and of itself. It doesn’t matter if it’s a life well lived or one of wasted potential. The quality of life adds value to life but life has a base value which is enormously high. When faced with suicidal persons I’ve drawn upon this inherent belief I have that life is valuable in and of itself to convince the individuals to reconsider. That’s the crux of the law in this regard, it assumes that the individual isn’t able to decide.
There is precedent in our society and in liberty for this. It is this same line of reasoning by which we say a child cannot give consent for certain behaviors. “They are not old enough to decide” is a way of conveying that they don’t have the mental capacity to decide. That’s where we get into a rather slippery area.
Does a love of liberty mean that an adult is always able to exercise that liberty?
If we say yes, then suicide is in. It is their life to use or dispose of as they see fit. A waste to be sure, but theirs to waste. If we say no, then we are left with deciding when that person is unable to decide. For a child it is because they are developmentally unable to process logic in the way an adult can. Children and adolescents (up to early 20’s) are biologically different from fully mature adults and unable to process information in the same way. Research has shown that 18 years old isn’t a magic date of maturation (we all suspected as much) but that some people continue to develop into their early 20’s with some late bloomers being as old as 25. We accept that at a certain point a person can make choices. The logic isn’t much different for a person that is mentally ill. Due to the physiological disorder they suffer from they are unable to process information correctly. They live within their own schema and it may not match objective reality. Can such a person be truly able to fully understand the finality of suicide? Maybe, maybe not.
If we start to decide that people aren’t able to decide for themselves then we open a door to a scary place. To a place where a government can decide that anyone who doesn’t support universal healthcare or other government programs simply can’t be in their right mind. Leftists already think that don’t they!? They think that anyone who doesn’t think and believe the same way they do is wrong, evil, crazy, demented, etc. so it really shouldn’t be a giant leap in our minds to see how they could abuse this.
I think what happened in the story below is disturbing and disgusting. It runs against all my personal morality and my deeply held love of life. There is one thing I have learned about suicide: those who really want to do it, do. There are very few who live through an honest attempt. Certainly there are exceptions but they are exceptions, not the rule. It’s been said many times that an attempt is a cry for help and so it is. As a society, as humanity, I think we should answer this call and offer what help we can.
I often hear non-religious people say something along these lines, “if God exists why does he allow bad things to happen?” Maybe the answer is that God is allowing us to make choices and respecting our agency. He gives commandments sure, tells us how he wants us to live, but we all see what people are clearly free to violate those commandments and they do it all the time. That doesn’t mean doing so is without consequence it just means God isn’t forcing anyone. I don’t think that means God wants people to commit suicide but he doesn’t stop them either.
A man in the Netherlands has been allowed to die because he could no longer carry on living as an alcoholic. Mark Langedijk chose the day of his death and was telling jokes, drinking beer and eating ham sandwiches with his family hours before he passed away.