Assisted Suicide: Act of Mercy or Cutting Life Short?

I was listening to “The Diane Rehm Show” on NPR this morning and her guest was John West, author of The Last Goodnight, a book written about helping his parents commit suicide. His father had terminal cancer and his mother was falling into mental decline and both asked him to help them meet death on their own terms when they felt their times had come.

I don’t know what I think about assisted suicide. I absolutely believe that life is precious, a gift from God that should be lived to its fullest. But I can imagine how it would feel to come to a point where life no longer seemed to serve any purpose but misery and/or great physical pain. Of course, death would seem attractive, an end to one’s struggles that I can’t claim I wouldn’t want when my own quality of life fell to some undetermined breaking point. If someone I loved asked me to help them leave this life with a little dignity, would it be too much to ask for?

I do believe that we never know what the future holds for us. There are many tales of people who have overcome great struggles and served as an inspiration to others. Are the afflictions of old age or terminal illness somehow greater of a burden to the soul than the other pains life deals us? Six months down the road, someone could develop a cure for their disease. I think we should all make the most of the time we have and letting any of it just slip away somehow seems wasteful and wrong. But I don’t have to greet each day with unbearable pain or depend on others for using the restroom or dressing myself so that’s easy for me to say.

What questions like these always come down to for me is that, no matter the circumstances, I don’t think we, as humans, should be in control of snuffing out life. Whether you believe in a higher power or that we are nothing but organic material or that death is yet another stage of existence, taking the option of removing our consciousness before it has naturally ceased to be just doesn’t make sense to me. Even as I write this, though, I remember that most of the pets in my life have been taken to the vet for euthanasia when their suffering seemed more than they should be forced to handle. But was that really for their benefit or ours? If I think I can decide to end the lives of those creatures who have no voice to speak for themselves, then who am I presume I should tell another human being, who can make their wishes clear, that they can’t take their lives into their own hands?

What do you think?

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