There is no unconditional right to die


No one can charge the advocates of assistance in dying with stoic acceptance of defeat. Every two or three years they return to their cause with conviction, but the flaws in their arguments remain the same. We freely grant that most of those who favor “choice in dying,” or assistance by physicians to hasten death with lethal overdoses of medication, are motivated by an honest desire to relieve-or end- intolerable suffering. I cannot support their efforts for several reasons.

First, I believe that the idea of “autonomy” as the absolute unconditional power of individuals in all matters of life and death is wrong. In fact, each of us lives in a matrix of relationships with others: family, work, spiritual organizations and so forth. We all have responsibilities as well as rights, and our goals of care we choose for ourselves in consultation with others. Moreover, the ending of our life by choice may be seen as a cold, angry rejection of attempts to help and support us in suffering. If a brother is about to jump off a bridge to drown, is my impulse to pull him back or give him a compassionate push into the dark river below?

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