In the past decade, 208 people in Oregon living in extreme pain, with no hope for improvement and less than six months to live have chosen to end their lives peacefully. On Tuesday the Supreme Court blocked Bush administration efforts to use the Controlled Substances Act to punish the doctors who help Oregon’s terminally ill die. This ruling will protect the state’s assisted-suicide law and allow other states to enact similar laws.
As regards to suicide itself, it really doesn’t matter what the Supreme Court or the Constitution says. Suicide should not be an issue for the federal government or any individual state governments to be involved in. Their opinions and proscriptions are irrelevant. No state ever has any right to tell anyone that they have to live. They presume to have taken power over individual lives that no conscious person can ever grant them. The right to death follows naturally from the right to life, which is a human right. As a natural human right, no one needs anyone else’s permission to exercise it.
Officially, the American Medical Association opposes physician-assisted suicide. But within its “principles of medical ethics” we find that “a physician must recognize responsibility to patients first and foremost,” and that, according to the "standards of conduct which define the essentials of honorable behavior for the physician,” a “physician shall, while caring for a patient, regard responsibility to the patient as paramount." As our lives are our own, we can choose to terminate them at any time, regardless of what the law says. Those who are conscious and choose to end their lives, but are unable to do so themselves due to extreme pain, need assistance and according to the AMA’s own principles, it is the physician’s duty to help.
Our state guarantees every adult with a terminal illness, “who has voluntarily expressed his or her wish to die,” the right to “medication for the purpose of ending his or her life in a humane and dignified manner.”
As the only such law in the country it is natural for some to want to challenge it, using any means necessary. These people, ignoring the fact that a death delayed is not life, would force the terminally ill to live intolerable lives. There is a difference between being alive and only living.
The president’s spokesman told reporters that his boss “remains fully committed to building a culture of life,” meaning that he, like the people who put him into office, opposes the court’s ruling. But you can find cultures of “life” in yogurt, and you can grow them in a jar. Human life, however, is of a different type of life. Human beings are conscious creatures with free will. Our lives are our own, and it is our own personal choice to live them, or not. There is no more fundamental choice than this.
For someone living in pain that would like to die a humane death of his or her own choosing, Tuesday’s ruling was a victory. Not because anyone living in pain needs a government OK to end his or her life. It is because the ruling prevents stateists, like the president, and other “conservatives,” from keeping those in need from obtaining assistance when exercising their natural right to die. This right, which is a natural human right, should be guaranteed by law. Now it is. Eventually it will be the law everywhere, or the law will become irrelevant.