Assisted Suicide: A Right or a Wrong?
“Matthew Donnelly loved life. But Matthew Donnelly wanted to die. For the past thirty years, Matthew had conducted research on the use of X-rays. Now, skin cancer riddled his tortured body. He had lost his nose, his left hand, two fingers on his right hand, and part of his jaw. He was left blind and was slowly deteriorating. The pain was unrelenting. Doctors estimated that he had a year to live. Lying in bed with teeth clenched from the excruciating pain, he pleaded to be put out of his misery. Matthew wanted to die now. His pleas went unanswered. Then, one day, Matthew’s brother Harold, unable to ignore Matthew’s repeated cry, removed a .30 caliber pistol from his dresser drawer, walked to the hospital, and shot and killed his brother. Harold was tried for murder.” – by Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez
The title of the paragraph cited above is Assisted Suicide: A Right or a Wrong? It was retrieved from Santa Clara University, The Jesuit University in Silicon Valley, website published in the fall of 1987. This article was published 26 years ago. Do you think an answer was ever found? For some perhaps, but to others I doubt it. What struck me was the actual question.
It wasn’t the question being asked in the first place that caught my attention. No, it was how the question was phrased. Is assisted suicide a Right as in a civil or human right? Or, is assisted suicide a Wrong as in an offense or injustice? What the question didn’t as was, is it right or wrong to assist someone in taking their life? The presumption here may be that this moral question was already settled in the mind of the authors; therefore, the only question remaining was whether such action was protected under the constitution or prosecutable.
For me, the moral question is settled. I harbor no confusion over whether suicide is right or wrong, and I have peace with my position. I have often commented to friends and family that when my body quits working please don’t let machines take over the work my heart and brain should be doing. I am hopeful that my decision reflects my hope and faith that someone other than the man in the mirror holds the reins over my life.
But what about assisting someone else to terminate their life? Each of us will have to stand before the judgment seat of the Almighty (my belief and opinion) and answer for the decisions and actions we took in this life. So if I take my life, I have to deal with that at some point. But does this change the nature of the judgment I may face in the after-life when I have to answer for taking someone else’s life? At first blush I want to say yes, my judgment should be harsher since I am acting in the place of God and ending someone else’s life. I am taking that decision away from the Righteous One; however, is this any different if I take my own life? Am I not taking that life and death decision out of His hands, or rather aren’t I taking the time and place and means of my termination out of His hands??
You might say an Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient God cannot have any decision taken or usurped from Him. But free will undercuts this argument because each of us has a free will. So while our decision to terminate as well as the when and how are already known by God, the right to execute our will is still reserved for us. Given this then, it would appear that the final judgment we will face might be ever the more frightening since such a decision reflects the antithesis of faith, trust, and hope in Him as our Sovereign Lord. Free will it seems is the problem. It was in garden during the most critical decision making dilemma in human history and it will be at the end of life.
Reading the article paragraph provided in this post again, one can readily hear the pain and anguish such a decision caused both Matthew and Harold. Is Assisted Suicide a Right or a Wrong? Matthew’s pain should not be discounted nor that of his family. I have no doubt that there are hundreds of situations just like this that occur across the nation all the time. How could anyone look Matthew, or anyone else in a similar circumstance, in the eye and tell him/her/them that they need to finish out their life course regardless of how much suffering they experience? Isn’t doing so putting us in the position of God, dictating how the person in suffering is to live and for how long?
Someone might argue why is it humane to end the suffering of a dog mashed in the street, or a cat that’s been burned beyond recognition or a horse that broke its leg making money for a human master but not the suffering of a fellow human being? How can Assisted Suicide be wrong?
A counter to this argument might be that it is the master to whom this right is reserved. We human beings have dominion over all the earth. We do with the creatures whatsoever we will because we are their master. The artist has every right to mold the work of his hands as he sees fit, to build a monument with beauty or purpose or neither. Perhaps then this is our answer. We have a Master and to Him is reserved the right to do whatsoever He wills with us. As we are the clay and He is the Potter, who are we to say to Him, yes or no or maybe? If the clay is to be discarded or re-made, let it be He would did first mold us make that decision and not we ourselves.
If neither argument is suitable, how then is the question, “Assisted Suicide: A Right or a Wrong”, to be answered?