I believe that it should be up to individuals to determine when and how they die. For instance, if I am diagnosed with dementia, I would rather die (almost immediately) than subject my family and myself to that fate. When one’s consciousness has been severely compromised and will become increasingly impaired, life has lost its meaning.
Ideally, science and technology will defeat death and suffering, but in the meantime, I hope others respect my autonomy and allow me to die when I deem life no longer worth living—assuming this doesn’t put them in legal jeopardy. If I can no longer voice my preferences, I want my family to respect the wishes set out in my advanced directives for healthcare. Yes, death is a tragedy, one of the worst ones that can befall us, but there are fates worse than death.
On the contrary, some philosophers argue that death can never be a good thing for a person, that all lives are worth living, that there is no right to die, or that we are never “better off dead.”
However, I and many others disagree. We applaud the advanced directives for health care, sign our living wills, and ask our spouses, friends, sons, or daughters to act as our surrogates when we can’t speak for ourselves. We choose to forgo the remainder of lives deprived of those things that make life valuable—the ability to love, think, touch, reflect, and remember—for the uncertainty of death. We prefer not to debase human life or glorify suffering but to exercise human autonomy.
So for those who believe there is meaning in the most excruciating forms of physical pain and dementia, who believe that we are never “better off dead”—let them be free to suffer or carry on if they so choose. But for those of us who believe that, at least sometimes, we are “worse off alive”—let others respect our autonomy as well.1
1There is no tension between my views here and my transhumanism. I want the option to live indefinitely but also the option to end my life if I find it no longer worth living.
7 thoughts on “Euthanasia”
“I believe that it should be up to individuals to determine when and how they die. ”
Sometimes people are allowed the privilege of choice, regarding the time and place of their deaths, for most, time and chance make this decision for them!
Dr. Kevorkian became quite famous as an enabler of suicide, he had a machine that, upon the patient’s command, would give the patient a lethal injection while the good Doctor was watching. Dr. Kevorkian practice was enabling death and as part of his research, during his career he watched many people die!
Personally depending on the circumstances and in the full knowledge of the inevitably of death in any case, yes I also could embark upon this path, I think it would save myself and my family much grief and despair, while my continued living would add nothing of value to anyone’s life.
I have made a long list of medical conditions for which I’d want DNR orders in place.
As to actual plug-pulling, not as much hurry, PROVIDED I have a solid system in place to easily unplug at the right time.
Dementia? haha, it’s a mere recalibration. it is high intelligence that is weird, budensome, and hated. Stupidity is the norm however you look at it–in terms of total matter, exobiologically, phylogenetically, ontogenetically, cross-sectionally, etc. Mercifully, entropy squashes intelligence sooner than later.
Once I’m demented, i.e., readjusted, my hurry to die will depend on whether there’s good stuff on TV.
PBS mysteries: yeah, I’ll subscribe for another few weeks, especially if they serve mixed nuts with that.
Sports channels, Celebrities, and CNN: that’s too painfully demento even for me–I’ll say Take me now, Laaard!
Yeah, all deserve the right to decide when to exit, without external pressure, without internal pressure from some Need to Remain ‘Meaningful,’ and in a way that does not traumatize survivors. Medically assisted exits are optimal ways to achieve that.
I also don’t want to reach a point when my condition(s) make me wish not to envy the dead, provided I even have that degree of awareness when the time comes.
I am grateful you expressed these thoughts and intentions. It is a very brave topic. I too firmly believe one should dictate their death in the same manner they dictated their life. No one should take away such a freedom. I already suffer from MD and have no intention of allowing my family to suffer via my suffering. To quote Russell, I don’t want to fit the bill of “helpless old people a burden to their sons”. I had rather control my destiny. Many of my favorites handled their affairs. So hey, if all the cool kids are doing it! 🙂
I agree with all you wrote. These philosophers who maintain that “we are never better off dead” or that “there’s no such thing as a right to die”, can’t be philosophers: they are still children. And how did they arrive at the conclusion that there’s no such right? In the very best of cases, old age is a decline of all our capacities (which is why is important to develop them beforehand, for an old man in better shape is still better than an old man in bad shape, so to speak). Many philosophers (the ones who grew up) for example Russell ,wrote that to want to cling to life for too long, in any state and under any condition, is despicable (don’t remember the exact words, but this was the gist of the message). Schopenhauer quoted a Spanish proverb: “Quien larga vida vive, much mal vide” (To live too long means going through much evil). These Methuselah wannabees will see for themselves. I sincerely hope that one day all one has to do to die a seamless and painless death, is just filling in a form and once it is accepted, pressing a button. And we aren’t even speaking of the people who are or were not old at all, but they lived an unacceptable life, for example the adventurer Ambrogio Fogar…he was just an ‘ordinary’ person in Milan who could not stand the boring city life, and started to sail, explore places around the world, alone. He just could not live any other ways, he hated city life. One day he was rally driving in a desert, the car hit a small stone and this caused the driver to lose control, resulting in an accident. It seemed a minor accident, neither he nor Fogar had even bruises on them. Except Fogar had hit his spine and became tetraplegic. He spent the last 12 years of his life in a little room, often alone, staring at a paper sky painted on the ceiling. He asked to be euthanised but for some reason it did not happen. The point is, clinging to life while being a former shadow of oneself, is the vain desire of weak and small minded people. All the philosophers I know of, maintained the same view. Personally, I really like the defiant and even spiteful attitude the Stoics or the Cynics had toward both life and death. Of course, one should not wish for death for stupid reasons, for example shooting myself because a woman rejected me. This has happened many times, and it is so stupid and even laughable. Of course, that is not euthanasia, but the goal is the same.
I think people who are against “rational euthanasia ” are full of taboos and fears due to a complete lack of understanding and clarity. They aren’t much different than religious people…..they think they can replace facts and truth with worthless beliefs.
Thanks you for your article.
We agree on this one Luigi. I think our position is finally winning the day but 30 years ago it was a minority position.