America proclaims its freedoms and rights of the people to any ear that will listen. Our country is founded on democracy and the free electoral system. Even the United Nations holds a document adopted sixty years ago entitled the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (UDHR) drafted by participating UN countries.
According to this document we as human beings are said to have equal rights. Article 3 of the UDHR states “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” (un.org, article 3) But what about the right to die? If humans are entitled to such basic rights as the right to life, then the right to die is a human right as well.
As adults we have choices in life concerning what we do with our body. Aside from select areas in Africa and illegal underground slave trades, we all own ourselves and no one can buy, sell or claim as property another person. We are our own property, to do whatever we want to with so long as it doesn’t harm another. Almost anywhere you go in the world you find people with tattoos and body piercing.
Plastic surgery is becoming more and more popular, and we can even donate organs. Any medical procedure performed in the US requires a consent form. Even if it’s medically necessary a person can decline a procedure even if it means they will die. When you are injured or ill, and even if you may die from that injury or illness, if you are a competent adult you can elect not to have a procedure performed and this is perfectly legal. Isn’t refusing the help of a physician the same as committing suicide? Yet this act goes without legal punishment.
The closest most society’s will come to legally allowing a person to die without helping them die is to make them comfortable and free of pain, allowing them to die with dignity. Supporters of assisted suicide and the right to die aim to help people die with dignity as well. Assisting a terminally ill, competent adult to end their life preserves a person’s dignity during death.
The most widely known advocate for assisted suicide is Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Dr. Kevorkian claims to have assisted in over 130 suicides of terminally ill adults, and spent 8 years in prison in the US for his involvement. Currently only four places in the world allow assisted suicide; Oregon, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands and in all of these a psychologist must be present and the person must be deemed competent and terminally ill. (Humphry, par. 14)
Advocates for both people on both sides of the issue have many reasons for their beliefs, ranging from personal to religious to political. Similar to the more popular abortion debates, pro-life supporters believe God has the final say on when we die and suicide is a mortal sin, punishable by eternal damnation. Assisting in suicide is playing God and therefore the same as murder. Life is a gift and we have to treat it as a gift. Around the world countries have enacted laws against assisted suicide, ranging from manslaughter to Class AA Felony. (International Taskforce)
Regardless of what a person believes they will face after death, we are still human and to face death from disease or severe injury is difficult. If someone can decide for themselves when they pass and they can hold onto their pride and their dignity they can face death calmly. This option can assist a person to die comfortably, preserving the universal right of security of person. Hospitals and physicians give family members the right to turn a patient off life support when there is no recovery probable, yet we cannot make that choice for ourselves when terminal.
Humphry, Derek “Tread Carefully When You Help to Die”
1 March, 2001
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
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