Friday, August 30, 2013

Diane Coleman's Opposition to Assisted Suicide Ignores Rights - PART 2

Continuing my participation in the comments debate triggered by Diane Coleman's article The Dangerous "Help" of Assisted Suicide, I challenged opponents of the legalization of assisted suicide with this comment:

In 2005, 25-year-old Christina broke her neck in a diving accident, paralyzing her from the neck down. Christina didn’t give up on life, but after years of struggle her life became "intolerable." She decided to end her own suffering by ending her own life, but was legally forbidden to seek professional assistance  So, she took the only course legally open to her: She starved herself to death over several agonizing months. Her story was covered by Bob Braun.

On 4/19/11, Christina penned a blog post, to be published after her death (12/1/11), in which she explained in her own words and in detail how and why she came to her decision: 

Her conclusion, in part: "I feel justified in saying I've suffered enough. I feel it's horribly unfair, that I'm forced to live, the way paralysis has forced on ME. I'm not talking about 'quadriplegics,' I'm talking about Christina Symanski. So then I'm left with the question, 'is it really worth living?' Not for everyone else's reasons, or for anyone else, but ME. If not, then I only have but one choice, and that's to stop accepting the treatments that are prolonging my unnatural lifestyle. My only hope, and biggest obstacle, is that my loved one's understand and accept my wishes, and know that my wish is to prevent suffering, because I don't view THIS as a quality life."

Everyone who opposes legalized assisted suicide should read her final post [Quality vs. Quantity], and rationally explain why this woman should have been forbidden to secure professional help in carrying out her final, reasoned life choice to end her state of living death. Whatever the opponents' reasons, compassion and reverence for life they can not claim.

John from Middletown met my challenge:

"I am also from New Jersey (now in Boston), and my spinal cord injury is actually one level higher than Christina's was. Here is what I and a few other disabled people wrote about her death last year. Please take the time to read it. The Death of Christina Symanski [from the blog of Not Dead Yet

I did read his piece, and replied:


Thanks for the link.

You wrote, "No one needs to have the 'right' to kill themselves." Actually, it is a right, and we do need to legally recognize that right in order for people to be liberated from laws legally forbidding them from securing proactive professional help—i.e., contracting voluntarily with willing qualified medical personnel—to carry out, in dignified fashion, one's wish to die (as opposed to refusing treatment and letting nature take its own agonizing course). 

The stereotyping of people who support legal assisted suicide is grossly unfair. One example from your link: "Most of the reactions to the Mail article are the predictable drek applauding her coming from able-bodied people."  Another: "American society loves people with a disability that want to die." 

My point is not to judge what's best for every individual whose life has reached the point of extreme hardship. I do not applaud Symanski for her choice to die. I applaud her for making a reasoned choice that she considered right for herself. I do not love disabled people who want to die. I do, however, love freedom. My point is that each individual should be left free to decide—the individual to choose the best means to end his/her life if that is their choice, and the doctor to decide whether and how to assist, consistent with his conscience. You implicitly acknowledge as much when you said, "people are different and as Christina says, view different matters differently." Precisely, which is why the state should be limited to protecting the rights of all involved. 

The matter of rights is a profoundly moral matter. It goes to freedom of conscience. Rights, in the legal context, is all that matters.

Related Reading:

Religious Objections Irrelevant to Assisted Suicide Law

"I've Suffered Enough"—A Young Woman's Quest for a Peaceful End to an "Intolerable" Life

Does The Right To Life And Liberty Include The Right To Terminate One's Life? by Amesh Adalja

Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society by Craig Biddle

1 comment:

Mike Kevitt said...

I can't add more to the issue of assisted suicide (as opposed to euthanasia, which is a form of homicide as a crime). Suicide is ones right, assisted if one wants assistance and can get assistance.

As for rights as such, in a legal context, rights are all that matters? Yes, true. In fact, rights are the only source of law. Any legislation that comes from anywhere else just ain't law. It's legislation, but it ain't law.