The right to die is an entitlement to end one’s life (Humphry, 2003). It holds that every person has a right to die with dignity. Possession of this right gives an individual the ability to choose when to die and by whom. It is sometimes denoted as do not resuscitate. This implies that people should be allowed to die at a time of their choice.
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Over the decades, the focus has mainly been on physician-assisted suicide. Oregon was the first state in the United States of America to make physician-assisted dying legal. Its citizens passed the Death with Dignity Act in 1994 (“Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act”, 1994). The act permits physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill under some specific conditions. The act became operational in 1997.In the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan physician assisted dying is lawful.
The proponents of the right to die argue that death is a private matter that should not be interfered with by others (Appel, 2012). In this case, every person should be allowed to make a choice. A person is thus accorded the right to choose when to die and by whose action. Each person should be as free as possible and the state and any other person have no right to interfere. An action that does not interfere with other people’s lives is allowed to proceed undisturbed. Therefore, whether one has made the right decision or not should never be subject to debate. In the majority of cases, a person making such a decision has usually considered the benefits of his actions. It has been argued that sometimes such an action benefits both the subject and the people around them. It benefits the individual by bringing suffering to an end and benefits those around them by reducing the burden of providing care.
The right to die has also found support in utilitarianism (Pilpel & Amsel, 2010). The point here is that moral rules are created to bring happiness to the majority. It follows therefore, that if the right to die will bring happiness to many people then it is acceptable. Here the focus is mainly on its effect on total human happiness. If it has a big impact on the state of happiness of an individual even for a short time, then it should be given a place in society and be made lawful. To the proponents of this approach, happiness gained through the right to have a dignified death is far more important than the pain of illness. In this view is the notion that slow death is painful and unacceptable. The distress of anticipating death is seen to strip one of dignity.
Those in favor of euthanasia argue that it happens all the time. Though, euthanasia is illegal in many states, it has nonetheless been practiced by some individuals. Since the law has not effectively prevented its practice, it is safe to legalize it and put in place regulation mechanisms. In a controlled environment eligibility criteria can be set. Only those cases who meet the criteria will be granted their wishes. It is hoped that this will reduce irrational suicides in the long run. Giving an individual the ability to decide when to die gives a sense of control (Appel, 2007). It gives people time to reflect on the consequences of their actions and they may decide not to exercise the right.
Euthanasia and voluntary suicide may be essential to free health resources. The health care facilities in some states are not enough. People who have curable diseases seeking health care services are unable to access it on time. This is partly due to the fact that the same resources are being used on terminally ill patients, who based on their own reasons would have chosen euthanasia or voluntary suicide (Humphry, 2003). Letting such people exercise the right to die would not only free health resources but also make the patients happy.
A number of arguments against the right to die have been put forward. The opponents argue that it is not enough to legalize euthanasia just because it would make some people happy. It is difficult to quantify human happiness. The arguments for this right focus only on total human happiness. It has been argued that sometimes people do not know what they are doing. Such decisions may be made when one is not in the best mental state (Appel, 2007). Such decisions would result in irrational suicide.
Religious opposition to this right has also emerged. Some religions view life as sacred. Therefore, no one is allowed to interfere with it. The proponents argue that God gave life and it is only he who can end it. The sanctity of life should be upheld. Suicide is considered an evil act that is punishable by eternal condemnation. Those in favor of the argument believe that suicide and euthanasia are wrong regardless of the amount of happiness and satisfaction it would give those who request it.
The right to life does not directly give one the right to die. It has been argued that this two should be kept separate. Without separation life may unnecessarily be lost. Some who want to exercise the right to die may not know what is best for them (Emanuel, 2012). People do not always do what is in their best interest and that of others around them. It is important to consider the effects of this action on significant others. Euthanasia may have profound effects on those an individual choosing to take his life leaves behind. They may be psychologically affected. In this regard choosing to die at a given time ceases to be private.
The view that euthanasia and voluntary suicide may free limited health resources for use by others is not acceptable to some (Humphry, 2003). They argue that there is no logic in letting one person to die so that another can use the resources. To them life is equally important for both individuals. All people should be accorded equal treatment. The rush to free medical resources may be abused. Some institutions may take advantage of this for monetary gain. Therefore, this may create new challenges that may be difficult to solve.
The right to die is undoubtedly a controversial and sometimes divisive subject. Looking at it from the proponents point of view, indicates that an individual who requests euthanasia is simply acknowledging the fact that at some point in ones illness or suffering death does not deprive them of a good experience. However, such a right is subject to abuse even when there are strict regulations governing it. Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide is unacceptable in some societies as it goes against morality rules. It violates the idea of sanctity of life. Whether to legalize it or not is an issue that will always have divided opinion.
Appel, J. (2012). Assisted Suicide for Healthy People. Huffingtonpost.com. Web.
Appel,M. ( 2007). Suicide right for the mentally ill? A Swiss case opens a new debate. Hastings Cent Rep. 37 (3): 21–3.
Emanuel, E. (2012). Whose right to die.The Atlantic. Web.
Humphry, D. (2003). Final Exit. NY: Delta paperbacks. Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act (1994). Web.
Pilpel, A., Amsel L. (2010). What is Wrong with Rational Suicide. avitalpilpel.com. Web.