June 03, 2017

Source: Bigstock

Be this all as it may, there is something rather odd about extending assistance, in the name of personal autonomy, to people who wish to die, because they are perfectly capable of killing themselves without any assistance from others, for example by hanging, poisoning, gassing, exsanguinating, or shooting themselves, or merely by failing to drink for a few days. If it is said that these methods are potentially unpleasant, and that therefore people ought to be protected from the unpleasant consequences of their own actions, what of personal autonomy? Can it possibly mean doing exactly as one chooses while being spared the natural results by the intervention of others? Personal autonomy without personal responsibility, that seems to be the philosophy behind the proposal.

Moreover, if one has a right to die by another’s hand, others must have a duty to kill one; otherwise the right is a dead letter, a mere phrase. It might be, for example, that a person who wished to die could not find someone willing to kill him. Would he then be able to complain to a court that his human rights had been violated, and would the court be able then to require someone to kill him? Could a professional body such as doctors be required, on pain of disciplinary action, to kill people who were in no sense ill but merely fed up? Or would we instead have to institute a new profession, that of thanatologists, whose job it would be to kill people in compliance with their wishes? We need not worry that no one would be prepared to do this job; in the days of capital punishment by hanging, the Home Office in Britain is said to have received weekly applications from people for the position of hangperson. Indeed, an outlet for sadists might reduce the level of violence in society.

Perhaps we could have an advertising campaign soliciting subjects for euthanasia. During the Second World War, there was a poster asking people whether their journey by train was really necessary, implying that the trains could be put to better use. Similarly, we could ask people whether their life was really necessary, to which the answer would assuredly be no, since we are constantly told that no one, including ourselves, is indispensable. The food you eat, for example, could be put to better use: Think of all those malnourished children in Somalia and South Sudan. Yes, it is definitely time for a euthanasia campaign.


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