A Time to Live, A Time To Die

Since the demise of slavery, society has agreed that no body can be treated as disposable private property. To treat a body, even one's own, as an object that can be destroyed at will violates the intrinsic value and dignity of each member of the human family. We don't own ourselves but receive our individual lives in trust as a gift from our parents, our forebears, our sociocultural communities, and eons of natural evolutionary processes.

So why do certain persons assume that they have a right to suicide, much less the further right to a physician’s help in killing themselves? Accepting physician-assisted suicide as a liberty right for individuals is morally unacceptable.

An autonomous act of will that kills the self or another plays out the "logic of domination" or abuse of power from which humankind suffers. Granted, acts of destruction can be causally effective, but at what price? Joseph Stalin once stated, "Death solves all problems...no man, no problem." True enough, but those who are dedicated to "nurturing," "enabling," or "actualizing" forms of power must insist on a different way to meet the challenges of the process of dying.

When persons are ill and most vulnerable at the end of life, they need sustained personal attention, support, and complex kinds of care. Those exercising responsible nurturing power, for instance, will insist that the dying receive pain relief and all the blessed medical techniques developed in the new specialty of palliative medicine. Persons need never die in extreme physical agony.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1997
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