The assisted suicide and its moral implications
The question of assisted suicide and its moral implications transforms with the development of society and medical treatment possibilities, with new deceases and laws, and thus it needs careful reconsideration. Assisted suicide is performed by another person, usually by a doctor. The moral aspects of treatment of seriously ill and dying patients deserve attention, because it has a strong influence on modern society. This problem has been actively discussed for many years, yet the question of euthanasia remains unanswered. Its importance consists in the fact that it concerns existential questions of life and death. Finding solutions to this issue and its moral implications are essential not only for scientific and technical spheres but also for the social, ethical, and theological ones.
The Bible may be considered to be one of the strongest opponents of the assisted suicide with the commandment “You shall not murder.” Additionally, there is His sovereignty stated in the following passage: “As no one has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the time of their death.”At the same time, the Bible does not tell us to do everything possible to save human life; so in that case, one might consider assisted suicide as an act of charity in relation to the suffering person.
The Book of Acts contains an interesting passage, which suggests the idea of rescuing the soul through not killing oneself and believing in God’s help and support. However, all the suicides recorded in the Bible depict the idea that killing oneself is a big sin and by doing so a person separates from God and will go straight to hell.
The Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scripture supports the concept that life is the biggest God’s gift (Peter speaks about it, telling that patience is the art to stay and be persistent in the face of all that, we think, acts against us). Hence, the following idea contradicts the constitutions of most modern countries that guarantee the right to the private life and the right to dispose of this life.
A vast number of ancient philosophers, such as Aristotle in his work “Politics” or Seneca in his wok “On anger,” recommend not only abortion but also infanticide if there was a risk of the “deformed child” birth or when the family already had too many children, and even advocated the legalization of forced mortification of sick people. Such ideas were widespread at that time. For example, in Ancient Greece, there was a suicide authorized state body – the Areopagus, which specially designed poison reserves for suicides. Nevertheless, at some point, mass mortifications became one of the leading causes of depopulation in Greece.
Martin Luther who opposed the Catholic Church in various ways yet supported its idea that by committing a suicide, a person is being defeated by the devil’s power. However, he was the first one in the XVI century to write that a child with disabilities is a diabolical fruit without a soul, and killing it one should not consider as a murder crime. During the Renaissance period, the morality of Europe was under the influence of Christianity, but the isolated voices of thinkers that were more sympathetic to the assisted suicide began to appear.
In the early twentieth century, a German psychiatrist and physician Goche and Binbing tried to justify the need for the nation and mankind as a whole to kill the disabled – patients with mental and severe chronic diseases, which consequently caused a total of 120 000 to 250 000 human victims of “Euthanasia Programs” in Germany. This perverted approach to the assisted suicide was genocide and its performers did not think about infringements or human rights.
Speaking of the sphere of bioethics, it is important to refer to the well-known French postmodernist philosopher Jean Baudrillard who said that the modern culture is a continuous effort of separating life from death, and death, devoid of symbolic exchange with the living, settles in life itself, beginning to destroy and poison the life of the modern men from the inside. The question lies in a fact that the medicine is limited only to its efforts to save the person from the death which is a natural process. Moreover, society frequently does not consider some broader categories of good, including the possibility to avoid or alleviate sufferings of the person.
In recent years, with the development of organ transplantation practice, new problems directly related to the resolution of assisted suicide emerge in certain cases. According to the medical opinion, the human body, which is going to die within a short period, could save another person giving him/her a real chance to continue living. Essentially, many people die not waiting for the donor, and it appears that from our categorical principles to regard assisted suicides as an evil we lose two lives.
Formally, most of the countries are trying to reduce the problem of assisted suicide to the legal evaluation of a special kind of premeditated murder, as a subject of “medical crime.” In terms of the law practice entrenched in the traditions, physician participation in assisted suicide is equated with the participation in the murder. Despite this fact, not everyone agrees with this approach, and there are some countries which have legalized assisted suicide as, for example Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, and the United States (Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and California states).
There is also a social-legal implication of assisted suicide adoption – a risk of imposing pressure on the disabled, the elderly, and terminally ill people by their relatives, who want to seize their property or inheritance. Legal bodies should control the issue of assisted suicide, so that the decision of committing this action could be released from the immoral aspects.
On the one hand, the introduction of assisted suicide leads to the destruction of traditional moral and ethical values that were formed for centuries, bringing profound moral implications. However, on the other hand, since a person has the right to a decent life and a death as a part of this life, the right to a decent death is a part of the right to life. In all probability, the debates around this thesis are nothing more, but the fight for the possession of human’s life. The problem of moral consequences of assisted suicides has been a subject of the heated debates throughout many centuries, and it will never have a single definite answer – there is nothing right or wrong. If the window has a fire escape, it does not mean that it should be used every time to leave the apartment. That is why, it is impossible to blame a person which climbs out through the window because of the fire that has started in the house.
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