Questioning the Right to Life and Death

dying-flower.jpg

The question of death is a universal one. The question of who owns life is a bigger one. What exists beyond our consciousness, and how do we determine the existence of the afterlife? However, there is another issue I’m more concerned about and it is the quality of our life and how much control we exert over it.

If man was made to inhabit the earth, should he not also rightfully acquire a certain quality of life that makes his stay, or existence as many might put it, worthwhile. I have long maintained that our happiness and satisfaction are moving targets, ever-changing the older we get. As a subscriber to the Christian doctrine, and a believer of the utmost lordship of God over a man’s life, I am also pressed to agree with the position that the one who gives life also holds the authority, alone, to take it.

Despite, I find myself questioning this authority, and the laws of the State to protect the lives of her citizens from danger—including danger to self. This danger apparently includes taking one’s own life.

“Why does a man destroy himself or what destroys him? I would have to judge that suicide is mostly the tool of the thinking man. The right to suicide should be the same as the right to love.”
― Charles Bukowski

The question of a right to wield power over one’s own mortality pose an ethical and moral dilemma. On the one hand there is the issue of creationism, and on the other the question of choice. Should a person who has been brought to this world without their permission be granted the choice to stay or leave it?

Parents have an obligation to provide for their children and give them as fair an advantage as they can afford. They are also expected to give the best quality of life within their reach. The State is sworn to protecting that life, too, within the ambit of the law. As a result we have balanced individuals, matured and capable of deciding at some point in their lives what quality of living, made available to them, suits them most. Some aspire to live quietly; others look forward to an adventurous life. And some prefer a balance of both.

So what happens when this choice is threatened? Should the individual go on living a life below the quality they desire? Should they adjust their preferences, and perhaps, play at trying something new to satisfy the State’s responsibility to keep people alive and at no danger to themselves? Should people keep on living because their loved ones insist?

“There is a certain right by which we many deprive a man of life, but none by which we may deprive him of death; this is mere cruelty.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

I am aware that within some states in the USA, laws have been enacted that legalize physician-assisted suicides, in so far as the individuals involved are capable of making the decision on their own; have been given a six months prognosis or less, and are capable of administering for themselves a lethal dose. This is quite similar to what Swiss’ Dignitas offers: an opportunity to live with dignity and die with dignity.

It’s everything I believe life should offer—the choice to live as you want and enjoy the most of it while here. Death comes soon enough, and there’s no saying we’ll know when that will happen. But in a world filled with many uncertainties with little within our control, every man should be allowed, at the very least, a chance to live with dignity and die the same. Not ravaged by sickness, or abject poverty, or a life that appears to head nowhere.

While I understand the need for people to live with hope in their hearts; the unwavering belief that someday, somehow, things will get better, should the peculiar minority who don’t feel that way be subjected to the whims of the majority who do?

To whose benefit is it when we attempt at shoving our moral compasses on others who do not share our views on death and the right to it?

Again, I am a Christian, but over the past few months I have found myself pondering this. I don’t have the answers, and I know this is a difficult topic, but if the legislative bodies all over the world are beginning to reconsider their stance on assisted suicide in medical cases, perhaps it’s also time that we as a people began considering it, too—outside our current ethical and moral boundaries, above our fears of questioning the norm, and beyond the medical bracket.

 

Further reading (links open in new tab)

Physician-Assisted suicide: Legality and Morality

Assisted-suicide: A right or a wrong?

Should I help my patients die?

Quotes

Photo credit: Tumblr

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19 thoughts on “Questioning the Right to Life and Death

  1. amakaanozie December 6, 2017 / 10:44 am

    Dear Uju,
    Many thanks to your comments on Chuma’s blog – it led me to your own page. I’m a Christian like you. I believe in a God who gives life and who calls the soul, the person, to Himself when that person is ready. But although we know ourselves a lot, He knows us better. So he knows better when we are ready.
    You’ve asked us to question our beliefs; it’s a good thing to seek understanding for the faith one professes.
    I think that we should go to the roots of the matter.
    What does it mean to be free? Freedom is the capacity to do the good. I read this from Josemaria Escriva and it’s the best definition of Freedom that I’ve heard. Victor Frankl in his book ‘Man’s search for meaning’ talks about his being very free even while apparently bound in a concentration camp.
    Is there any value, any worth to suffering? I suppose the first answer would be a no. We do not want to suffer naturally. But then we realize that it costs us time and effort to finish preparing that recipe in order to have the satisfaction of eating it and sharing it with others. Or that we have to ‘suffer’ to do work – out in the gym to stay in top form. We ‘suffer’ because there is something worth suffering for. Suffering for suffering’s sake is inhuman. Our Christian faith takes suffering to a higher plane, to a supernatural one. We have been redeemed by the sufferings of Christ on the cross. He accepted it for love of his Father and for love of us, women and men. And he did it freely. He freely suffered to redeem us.
    If people out there have lost hope, have lost the reason for suffering or never had it in the first place, I understand that for them, Euthanasia is the only answer. But legalizing it doesn’t solve the question. What can you and I, who have this hope, what can we do for them? We need to help them see that there’s a meaning to it all. That there’s life after now.
    I also think that their loved ones matter a lot. It’s worth living for them. Because living for them is one step; for them – that’s one reason to live. And other reasons will come.
    Our Christian faith also teaches that we are made in the image and likeness of God. It’s the greatest assurance for man’s dignity. I’ve read cases where to effect the law, the doctors deny even the basics – food and water – to the helpless patients.
    There’s a lot of hype about Euthanasia – because we think that it guarantees our freedom better. But it doesn’t. Why don’t we talk about palliative care? How much is invested in the hospices, in training the care givers there to treat their patients in a dignified manner? To help them in their journey from this life to the next? This last statement only makes sense if one believes that there is a ‘next’. And there is.
    Dear Uju, I do not pretend to answer all the questions posed by this topic. I do not even have all the answers. But I’d like to keep in touch. We can go hand in hand in our efforts to better understand this in the light of the Christian faith.
    Do have a nice day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ericajean November 19, 2017 / 8:41 pm

    Great thoughts, Uju. I too subscribe to the Christian thought and belief system however, I also live in reality. Sometimes we don’t have all the answers and I don’t pretend to. Just having an open discussion of life, death and the philosophy between the two is a great start. Thank you!😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju November 20, 2017 / 11:39 am

      I’m all for fostering open discussions about things we’d rather forget existed.
      If we can’t question our belief system, how do we hope to teach and reach others? How do we transfer our culture to a younger, smarter, more inquisitive generation?

      Thank you for stopping by, Erica 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ericajean November 20, 2017 / 12:20 pm

        Absolutely! Many of us came to our faith, not by questioning or examination but because our family or tradition. You are right. I would rather question my faith and see if it holds up to the reality I see daily.

        Like

  3. Amara September 5, 2017 / 1:58 pm

    Hmmm…. Thoughtful one Uju.

    I just have a drift, if it is one.

    I thought of Moses, God’s own friend in the bible. He was told by God, that he wouldn’t enter the promised Land he was leading others to. And when it was time(for God though), He called him up to the mountain and took his life.

    I always wish to think it was apparently against Moses wish to die, and if it was so, why is it God took his life against his ‘right and choice’?

    Is it because He owns him? Or because He is the giver of the life? Or He owns the life?

    Who owns life really??

    But Moses had a right to choose, but that right was denied.

    He could have sent him off into deeper wilderness until he’s ‘ready’ to die, instead of taking the life Himself, “against his choice”.

    My belief as a Christian wouldn’t let me believe I have a right to take my life, only God does. But still I have a right to choose.

    My thoughts though…

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju September 9, 2017 / 12:13 pm

      More questions, Amara. Sadly, I don’t have the answers.

      I’m thinking about Moses now, though. All those years in the wilderness dealing with God’s stubborn children. The horror of having to lose his temper that one time that changed everything, and lost him access to the Promised Land. Having to learn he would die without getting in there.

      On the flip side, I think perhaps that it is some small mercy to take his life at that time. Moses was old. Moses couldn’t have survived wandering in the desert (perhaps). And God had better plans with Him where he could watch his children, too.

      Maybe giving up our will to God is something we get for accepting his sacrifice (that’s what a friend says). Maybe that’s a good thing.
      Maybe we just have to keep believing he knows us better than we know ourselves and he’s able to make beauty out of our ashes.

      Sometimes I think it’s better if we hold the reins ourselves; but then again, sometimes I also realise I’m happy I don’t hold the rein all the time.
      Perhaps we don’t get to cherry-pick these things.

      Thanks for the thought, Amy 🙂

      Like

      • makagutu September 12, 2017 / 6:44 am

        Hey dear friend,

        Another way to think of this. Can god kill himself/ herself? If not, then killing ourselves is one of those things we can do that god can’t.

        Like

        • uju November 20, 2017 / 11:36 am

          Funny logic :D,

          Like

  4. George September 1, 2017 / 12:41 pm

    I’m not surprised that you raise this thought provoking question considering all that has happened the past few years. Like you, my faith keeps trying to convince my logical mind that only God has the right to take life. But there is a big difference between living and being alive and none of us really know what God wants or expects from is in these situations. We talk about assisted suicide but what about those people who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease and refuse any kind of treatment because they prefer to live their remaining days without surgeries, medicine and the effects of those on their bodies. Is that not a form of suicide? Yet there is not the same kind of backlash or discussion.
    Like you, I believe people should have a choice but sometimes I feel guilty feeling that way. It goes against all I’ve been taught to believed in my entire life. Still…
    As always, eloquently presented, uju.

    Liked by 2 people

    • uju September 5, 2017 / 12:34 am

      “We talk about assisted suicide but what about those people who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease and refuse any kind of treatment because they prefer to live their remaining days without surgeries, medicine and the effects of those on their bodies. Is that not a form of suicide?”

      That’s another angle to suicide I hadn’t thought of before. Doing nothing. Refusing to take the option of longevity for whatever reasons.

      This guilt we feel… I only hope it goes away someday. Or at least that we get to a point where what we’ve be taught as truth, and what our heart judges true do not conflict.

      Thanks for your always thoughtful comments, George.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Holistic Wayfarer August 25, 2017 / 5:09 am

    Something I have thought about and recently addressed. Things get a little sticky when it’s a machine – artificially – keeping someone “alive”. If the person is otherwise brain-dead and the heart won’t move, where is the soul that doesn’t seem present?

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju August 31, 2017 / 12:35 am

      ” If the person is otherwise brain-dead and the heart won’t move, where is the soul that doesn’t seem present?”

      Good question. I do hope my family is kind enough to let me go when I’m unable to function like I do, now.

      Thanks for a thoughtful comment, D

      Like

  6. makagutu August 14, 2017 / 10:55 am

    Hello Uju.
    What a pleasant read.
    I think suicide should not be criminalized. If one doesn’t ask to be born, at least let them have the right to chose when to quit.

    Like

    • uju August 16, 2017 / 7:39 am

      Well, I sometimes feel the same way, too. But do you ever wonder as to the ethical side of suicide? Or at the very least why nationals criminalise it?

      Like

      • makagutu August 17, 2017 / 8:56 am

        I have debated on the ethical side of not allowing suicide. Are we prepared to deal with the reasons why a person wanted to commit suicide, in case we persuade them against it?
        That, for me, is the bigger ethical question.
        Why do nations criminalize drugs?

        Like

  7. Ann Coleman August 12, 2017 / 4:20 pm

    You’ve raised some excellent points here! I am also a Christian, but I have come to believe that in certain circumstances, assisted suicide is okay. I think there have to be restrictions to make sure it is not being done just because the person is depressed (I know far too many people who have lost a loved one to suicide to not realize the pain and devastation that leaves behind), but because the person is in pain and there really is no hope for anything to improve.
    It’s just my opinion, but I honestly don’t think that goes against God’s will. It is helping end someone’s suffering and allowing them to die with dignity and some sense of control, and I see that as a good thing. Death is the natural end to all of us, as you say, and I sometimes think we fear it too much.
    I’m not putting any of this nearly as eloquently as you did, but I do want to thank you for a thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju August 16, 2017 / 7:44 am

      Determining God’s will at this point is… I don’t know. Perhaps it’ll be nice if he just told us.
      I’ve raised this topic among a Christian fellowship and everyone told me it was sinful. That was a year ago. So basically this post took me a full year to write because I’ve spent the time looking for more context and hoping I’ll see something they saw.

      It still hasn’t changed. I think it’d cruel to let people suffer. But then we talk about Jesus and hope for the suffering and I’m torn between giving them respite and leaving them to God or their choices.

      I do hope we come to a point in life where issues like these are freely discussed, though. There are many out there who suffer for our silence.

      Always nice to have you, Ann.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ann Coleman September 3, 2017 / 3:28 am

        Thank you for this thoughtful response to my comment! I’m sorry it took so long for me to see it. WordPress is odd that way, in that I’ll get a notification that a blogger “liked” my comment, but I can’t see their response to it until several days later, and that’s only if I remember to look for it. (Which sadly, doesn’t happen often, as I am easily distracted.)
        But I agree…I wish God would just tell us sometimes exactly what is right and wrong. I do believe that our silence on this issue has caused untold suffering. And I have no idea if I am right or not, but deep in my heart, I believe that assisted suicide is okay in some circumstances. I believe in a loving God who understands our weaknesses, and who is willing to welcome us home when we are ready to go. But, as I said, that is simply my opinion, and I don’t expect others to agree.
        Thanks for always posting such intelligent and compassionate posts… You are a gift to your readers!

        Liked by 1 person

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