Friday, March 6, 2009

Assisted suicide is "liberty" run riot - the triumph of despair in the face of hope.

This may be one of the most well written articles on assisted suicide. Francis Davis writes this article in the Guardian (UK) on March 6, 2009 in response to the assisted suicide deaths of Peter & Penelope Duff.

Davis captures one of the key problems with legalizing assisted suicide and that is:
If it were enshrined in legislation, assisted suicide would be the legal guarantee that in moments and months of tribulation we would all be at risk from those who might misguidedly tell us there is more dignity in avoiding the human condition than in facing it.

The text of the article:
There's no dignity in this way of death

The assisted suicide service provided by a Swiss clinic represents a triumph of despair over hope

The passing of dear friends is always sad. When Peter and Penelope Duff chose to end their lives they no doubt had to say some sad farewells. Their friends are reportedly now shocked at the news of their passing. And yet something deep in my heart and in my mind tells me that something fundamentally human is at stake here. Assisted suicide is "liberty" run riot – the triumph of despair in the face of hope.

The Duffs died at the Swiss clinic, Dignitas. Its secretary-general couches it mission in terms of "human rights". He has advanced human rights, he says, by assisting the suicide of 800 people. The logic of his argument is that wherever a human ceases to have "control" or "management" of any of his or her capacities, a "right" to kill themselves should kick in. But there are great dangers on this supposed route to dignity for all those of us who might run aground for a time: depression can feel like it has no light within it.

Physical disability can profoundly disempower if you are surrounded by well-meaning but uninformed voices. "So you're depressed … what dignity do you have?" might come the apparently supportive but subtly undermining message. For other conditions, "You are going to die so it might as well come sooner" comes the cry. Palliative care is so good these days that it will not be the pain that confuses the unwell, but the pitying looks of those who are not ill, who through their pity imply the loss of hope. It is hard to stay strong when a loved one is looking at you as though you have lost your personality or soul.

Suffering, of course, is never welcomed. And yet it is in the face of real pain that some of the greatest triumphs of the human spirit can be discovered: the South African Constitutional court judge Albie Sachs was blown up by security agents, losing his sight and limbs. His glorious book about his recovery records how he arrived at a new view of human nature through the strain of renewal, one which inspired him to a "soft vengeance" against the perpetrators of his suffering. From the crucifixion of the Soviet death camps came resurrection in the form of Alexander Solzenhitsyn. From the coma of little Helen Worswick has come the Helen and Douglas House and respite, community and solidarity for hundreds of frail children. To rob "dignity" of its fullest meaning – which encompasses the dignity with which adversity is faced – is also to rob humans of their most awesome potentialities.

If it were enshrined in legislation, assisted suicide would be the legal guarantee that in moments and months of tribulation we would all be at risk from those who might misguidedly tell us there is more dignity in avoiding the human condition than in facing it. We are, after all, made to die. But we are also made for a powerful, sure and certain hope. To leave a legacy of living with courage is in no way enhanced by a final act of despair. And a legacy of hope is a greater human duty than the flight from humanity provided by Swiss doctors.

Link to the original article:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/mar/06/assisted-suicide-dignitas-duff

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