How a Person Dies should be a Personal Decision!

The title of this blog comes from a comment someone made after reading about the current "right to die" battle in Washington state. The description of Initiative 1000, a proposed ballot measure, was reported as follows:

The Death with Dignity measure would allow terminally ill adult patients considered mentally competent to request and administer lethal medication prescribed by a physician. Such actions by both patients and physicians acting in good faith would be legally protected under the measure.

The writer of the comment quoted above is someone who would agree that the law should allow those who feel their life is no longer worth living the opportunity to take their life or request that a doctor help them die.

The problems inherent in such so-called "physician-assisted suicide" proposals go to the very core of what it means to be a human person and where one draws the line between individual rights and morally correct decisions about those rights. In other words, while every human being has a right to life that should be protected by the law and the culture, nobody should have the legally sanctioned right to intentionally take his own life or the life of another person or facilitate the taking of that life by providing deadly drugs or other material designed to result in death. Direct killing is wrong, regardless of the language employed to justify the act.

Put into the context of the long road toward an absolute culture of death, one can understand why we are, in 2008, debating this question in the first place. The only reason that we are confronting the right-to-die onslaught today is that, once upon a time, the Supreme Court took it upon itself to fabricate a "right to privacy". This served the agenda of those who hold the view that personal choices regarding one's behavior should be divorced from moral or ethical boundaries once held as sacrosanct by our Founding Fathers.

When the United States Supreme Court first created the "right to privacy" in the infamous 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut case, new ground was literally defined by the most confusing judicial explanations I have ever read. As Professors Robert George and David Tubbs explain it,

In the majority opinion in Griswold, Justice William O. Douglas referred–as comically metaphysical as it sounds – to "penumbras formed by emanations" of specific constitutional guarantees as the source of the new right. He had nothing else to go on.

Or to put it another way, the so-called "right to privacy" that was allegedly discovered to guarantee married couples the right to use birth control, was based on nothing other than a political desire to affirm popular attitudes toward human sexuality. Whatever the court believed it was doing, the result has been devastating to man's perspective on human rights, personal rights and the deliberate taking of innocent human lives.

In every case involving not only birth control but also abortion or euthanasia, we find the same fabricated "right to privacy" being used to justify acts that were once thought to be crimes against the human person. This is precisely what is being debated in the state of Washington today. Whereas human beings once respected human dignity and worked to comfort those facing personal challenges such as a difficult pregnancy or a debilitating disease, today we seek quick fixes such as abortion or euthanasia while claiming that personal rights guarantee us the freedom to choose death either for someone else, or as this current scenario makes clear, for ourselves.

The "inconvenient" or the "uncomfortable" has become the justification for inhumane acts against human beings. And whether we are discussing abortion or euthanasia, the bottom line is that proponents of such acts believe that taking the life of a human being should be legally protected because of one's "right to privacy".

But as Rita Marker, an internationally recognized expert on euthanasia, has written regarding Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law and other proposals like it,

Oregon's law and the proposals based on it provide that assisted suicide is available to terminally ill competent adults who must self-administer the lethal drugs. At the same time, personal autonomy and ending suffering are the two prime reasons given for such laws. But those reasons, in and of themselves, require that the practice not be limited to self-administration by a terminally ill, competent adult.

Consider the following:

If personal autonomy is the basis for permitting assisted suicide, why would a person only have personal autonomy if he has been diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) as having a terminal condition?

If assisted suicide is proclaimed by the force of law to be a good solution to the problem of human suffering then isn't it both unreasonable and cruel to limit it to the dying? Once we have changed assisted suicide from a bad thing to be prevented to, at least in some cases, a good thing to be facilitated, isn't it easy to see how the early "safeguards" could be seen as obstacles to be surmounted?

On what basis could one deny a good and compassionate medical treatment to those who are suffering from chronic conditions? Or from children? Or from those who never have been or are no longer competent…

The bottom line in the current debate in Washington state is that human beings who reject God as the Author of life accept the premise that one's life and its value are matters of opinion. There are no right or wrong ways to view life and its meaning in a world where an individual's personal rights are based on nothing more or less than those emanations perceived by certain Supreme Court justices more than 40 years ago.

And let's face it, how a person dies is directly related to how a person has lived: with the Lord and in His service or without Him. In death, as in life, it is the willingness to surrender all to His will that makes the personal decision a good one or an evil one.