Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Right to Death—and to Life

The New Jersey Star-Ledger recently highlighted a bill working its way through the NJ legislature that would legalize assisted suicide in certain circumstances, such as when a patient is diagnosed with a terminal illness and given 6 months or less to live.

The editorial is interestingly titled The Right to Choose Death. I say interesting because the Star-Ledger is a Left-leaning newspaper that more often than not favors statist policies that restrict the individual's right to choose in myriad areas. The editors write:

For those who are chronically ill and suffering unbearable pain, choosing one’s own end should be a fundamental human right. Certainly, anyone who believes in limited government can get behind this idea.
I left these comments:

Not only SHOULD it be a fundamental right, it IS a fundamental right. Government doesn't create "human"—meaning individual—rights. Rights precede government. It's up to government to recognize and protect them.

In regard to Burzichelli’s bill, I would go further, and say that "the right to choose death" belongs equally to non-terminally ill people, as well. The Star-Ledger's own Bob Braun wrote about the heart-wrenching case of Christina Symanski in February 2012. After years of enduring a state of living death with no end in sight, Symanski had to resort to starving herself to death to end it, because proper professional assistance was legally forbidden.

But I have to wonder: Since the editors call for "limited government" in choices regarding death, how about limited government regarding choices about life? The regulatory state tells us what must be in our health insurance policies; what schools our children must attend and what must be taught there; what minimum pay level businesses and workers must adhere to; who, how much, and in what capacity to "help" others. In more and more areas of our lives, the government increasingly overrides our choices in healthcare, jobs, education, or charity, right down to what medicines and foods we may consume. If the government shouldn't tell us when and how to die, neither should it tell us how we live.

Yes, everyone has "the right to choose death." The right to life—the most fundamental of all rights—means the right to act on the judgment of one's own mind, so long as one's actions don't violate the same rights of others. But a properly limited government not only leaves people free to manage how they die, but more importantly how they live. All of our rights should be recognized and protected, and—to borrow the Star-Ledger's own words—"anyone who believes in limited government can get behind this idea."

Related Reading:

The Role of Rights in the Assisted Suicide Debate

Religious Objections Irrelevant to Assisted Suicide Law

"I’ve suffered enough"- A Young Woman’s Quest for a Peaceful End to an “Intolerable” Life

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