Right to Death

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The medico-legal definition of death is that the moment when the body starts to break up. The right to dead is a right of possessing one’s life and the possibility to choose the place and the conditions of one’s death.

Death, in modern times, often ensures a long and painful fall where one loses control both physically and emotionally. Some individuals embrace the time that modern technology buys them; while others find the loss of control overwhelming and frightening. They want their loved ones to remember them as they were not as they have become. Some even elect death to avoid burdens of lingering on. They also seek assistance in doing so from medicine. The demands for assisted suicide and euthanasia are increasing.

The fear of death is powerful. Yet even more powerful can be the fear of not dying, or of living a life full of pointless suffering. From this fear stems the belief that we should be masters of our own fate. This then brings about the euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide movements.

Do people have a right to choose death? More in particular, are euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide morally legitimate? Euthanasia involves a death that is intended to benefit the person who dies, and requires a final act by some other person, for example, a doctor. Physician-assisted suicide, which requires a final act by the patient, can also be undertaken for the good of that patient. The essential point is that both involve intentionally ending a human life.

But how, some ask, can we ever allow people to intentionally end human lives (even their own lives) without degrading human life? How, others ask, can we simply prevent people from deciding when to end their own lives without denying people the freedom so essential to the value of a human life? As these questions suggests, the debate about the right to choose death may appear to present a stand-off between people who endorse life’s true value, and those who think life’s value depends on the interests, judgments, and choices of the person whose life it is.

“No right is more sacred or more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of the individual to the possession and control of his own person.”

Control over life is imperative for each human being, but it must include a choice to end this life if there is no longer quality in it.

Well, once the decision to allow death has been made between physician, patient, and family, what is the ethical difference between giving a more painless death? Where is the abuse once the decision has been made to permit death to occur under controlled circumstances?

However, I think that the people in such situations should be able to choose the way to die not only because it is their right to privacy, but also because when the quality of a person’s life is diminished than it is no longer worth living. At this point, the patients who are terminally ill should have the choice of how they would like to end their lives.

For the Romans and Greeks the way in which a person died mattered immensely. This belief was not shared by early Christians and other religions. They believed that the individual was given his life by God and the voluntary taking of it was an act against God. Suffering was seen as something that God caused in order to produce spiritual maturity.

Sir Thomas Moore who, wrote about a utopian society, believed that, ” …if a disease is not only incurable but also distressing and agonizing without cessation, then the priests and the public officials exhort the man … to free himself from this bitter life… or else voluntarily permit others to free him.”

Describing a perfect, utopian society, Sir Thomas Moore supported the notion of letting a terminally ill patient decide how and when he should die. Moore’s utopian society was supposed to consist of people whose quality of life was so wonderful. Because terminally ill patients no longer have this quality, if they prefer to die then it should be allowed and regulated.

To conclude the essay I would say that these two correlated rights are at the core of one’s personal liberty. They give us freedom of choice. They give us control over one’s life. But not over one’s death. Right now people in the entire world dying from terminal illness are denied the fundamental right to choose a peaceful, dignified way to end their lives. In terms of the human aspect, we should respect the decisions of people who wish to stay in control of their life and die in the manner they view as dignified.

Well if we come up to the conclusion that everyone has the right to live, to be born, to die and even choose the conditions of one’s death, it would be rather philosophical than practical. Because of the correlation and interdependence of these rights, the choice of one of them the will cause the violation of the others.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948

Terri Shiavo Life and Hope Network


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