8 Reasons the British Parliament Shouldn’t Kill People
The UK Telegraph wants you to know that there are supporters for assisted suicide. They cite a recent study in Switzerland that found, on average, two British citizens a month travel to the city of Zurich for help to end their lives. And even more choose to remain in Britain to end their lives illegally. As you may have guessed, assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, but illegal in Britain. British Parliament’s proposed Falconer Bill would make it lawful for the terminally ill to be provided assistance to end their own life — and for connected purposes. Supporters hope it would lead to less suffering for those dying who want the choice to (legally) control how and when they die. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has previously indicated that he would oppose any plans to legalize assisted suicide. However, he has it made clear that Members of Parliament will be given a free vote on the issue if it is debated. They should be prepared to give good reason for or against. Others in favor of considering legalization include: Sir Patrick Stewart, Eric Idle, Julian Barnes, A.C. Grayling, Hugh Grant, Sir Chris Woodhead, Zoe Wannamaker, and Jo Brand.
The Telegraph article does not discuss the issues surrounding death, suffering, suicide, why the laws exists today, or what would happen if they are repealed. Instead, the piece simply appeals to mock authority to sway the reader by referencing an open letter as well as popular supporters that want to “make it so.” As much as I may respect each person mentioned in the article for their trade or craft, I do not look to the likes of Patrick Stewart or Eric Idle in matters of life and death.
Take it to the next level: here are eight reasons we might not need to kill people.
Reason 1. This Has Nothing to Do with Compassion
With more people taking their own lives in Britain rather than traveling to Switzerland (reported as ten to one), is the argument for the bill based on compassion or convenience? We should consider what we might be abandoning as a culture and a society in order for some people to avoid an “inconvenient death.” Shouldn’t most deaths be considered inconvenient?
Reason 2. Big Business Comes in Small Boxes
Admittedly, there are still Britons taking their own life today — legally and illegally. It is reported that there have been no prosecutions in the last 4 years when it was suspected someone “acting out of compassion” helped another commit suicide. So what is the real purpose of codifying suicide into English law? How much easier will it be for someone to “help” end a life? Undoubtedly legalization will open up a whole new suicide market where businesses and institutions will compete to kill you — um, I mean, assist you in death. Will they offer group discounts? Deluxe packages? Specialize in different forms of death? I really don’t mean to be unpleasant, but big business would seem to be the real benefactor here.
Reason 3. Assisted Dying is Inherently Abusive
Who defines “terminally ill”, “quality of life”, “cost to treatment ratio,” or one’s “utility to society”? We’re all terminal in the sense that we’re all going to die someday — who chooses when? A 90 year-old person has chosen life every day for the last 32,850 consecutive mornings. They have fought through colds and missed work because of the flu; experienced good times and bad; had to get out of bed for work on Mondays; cried at friends’ weddings and loved ones’ funerals; they have looked into the eyes of a newborn baby and smiled and wondered what tomorrow would bring. For almost 33,000 days they have exercised a right to life and chosen to see another day. Should we legalize an industry that waits and plans for the opportunity to capitalize on your weakest moment, when things look down? Just because you can’t see a way out does not mean it’s hopeless. There are 33,000 days that stand as a testimony to hope and that tomorrow is a different day.
Reason 4. Legalization is Useless at Best
The dead escape punishment in this life, although punishment in the next is another question. What might be some of the effects surrounding a government’s support of suicide? When you are depressed will your doctor simply agree with you and give you a blue pill instead of a red one? How will this law impact the behaviors of our current institutions, the doctors, the nurses, the councilors, and the funeral homes? Making assisted suicide legal will change the world around the sick and dying, but not actually change the circumstances for the person who is dying. Legalization would do far more for healthy businessmen than the terminally ill. This seems more a convenience for the living than it is for the dead.
Reason 5. Politicians Know Even Less than Philosophers About the Afterlife
Do our public officials know what happens after death? Philosophers and theologians — people who spend their lives considering this — don’t all agree. So shouldn’t public policy favor a cautious path that promotes life? Do our actors and playwrights know what is best for you and how you should be treated in your weakest time of life? Should our bureaucrats and politicians determine how your medical care proceeds while you are sedated? Don’t you want to the default choice to be life? And aren’t you, in fact, already making that choice to live right now?
Reason 6. You Can’t Change Your Mind
What if you make a mistake? Have you ever changed your mind or had your perspective change? Sometimes this takes a long time, sometimes changing your mind can happen in a moment as when you realize you have just done or said something stupid and wish you could take it back. Just take a look at a few “stunt gone wrong” videos if you need an example. But I’m sure you have a few of your own. The point is: what if deciding to end your life, or to help someone else end their life, was a mistake? You don’t get to take it back. There is no undo button. This is a choice you will have made forever.
Reason 7. We Are More Than Our Bodies
Since Christianity and other religions teach against suicide (others say pain is an illusion) isn’t this bill really founded in the atheist belief that you simply won’t exist after death?
It is interesting that we cannot simply decide one day that it is our last day and simply lay down and die. It is as if we are not given the spiritual authority to die. Instead, we must find a way to stop our bodies to be able to die. When you think about it, we usually have little to do with where and when we die, just as we had little to do with our birth — where, when, eye color, skin color, height. We take is for granted that this is our body and that our body is all there is.
But our mind, consciousness, and body are distinct. We each have differing abilities: our memory, strength, etc. But just like a computer or car we purchased, these are separate from who we are. It’s interesting that we can describe the biological and electrical process of moving our arm, for example, but we can not explain the will to make the arm move in the first place. We are something more than our physical ability. If we are more than our physical selves and do live on forever it might be important to understand more about our non-physical selves before we make laws that separate our mind and body.
I don’t think suffering is an illusion for our mind or our body. I look forward to the day when there is no suffering, and I am with God. But I don’t think killing people is the answer. More delicately put: I won’t be starting a business to make money helping the terminally ill enjoy dying more. If you believe we die and turn to nothing because, when you ask the dead, they say nothing, I question your logic. The lack of evidence is not evidence in support of ending a life — or that suffering would end — only that the living would not see someone suffer once they are dead. But philosophy and theology do not extol the virtue in the lack of suffering. If you want to remove suffering, it’s far better to help those who will suffer for eternity find the cure while they are here.
Reason 8. Suffering May Not End After Death
I have not died and come back to tell you, but a few claim to have experienced something after — something other than this life. There are whole belief systems that have taught about an existence after death — some of which say that there can be great joy or great suffering depending on your choices in life.
Christianity teaches that mankind enjoyed a close relationship with God — even walking with God in the garden of Eden — but we chose to eat the forbidden fruit and broke our relationship with God. It also teaches that God still loves us and is ready to be with us once again if we admit we broke the relationship, not God. We are so far apart from the perfect God, we are like a stranded traveler that does not have the means to get back home. God has already sent the payment to bring us home. Like the stranded traveler, if we want to go home, we just need to accept the ticket Jesus has paid for. But first it means talking to God. Sometimes admitting we were wrong is the hardest part. If we die and have already decided our destination is to be with God, we will make it home to be with God forever. But if we die a lost traveler apart from God, we are truly lost and we suffer separated from God forever.
So what do you think about legalizing assisted suicide? What are the reasons, future consequences, and underpinnings behind changing the law?