The right to die

By U-Wire

Last Tuesday, the newly-freed Jack Kevorkian, also known as Dr. Death, announced that he would dedicate the rest of his life to the fight for the right to die. His release this week after eight years in prison for second-degree murder coincides with the introduction of a bill to the California legislature that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Currently, Oregon is the only state in the United States that allows such practices.

Kevorkian bases his argument for the right to die on his own particular brand of natural rights theory, and draws legal support from the Ninth Amendment (“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”) Legally this argument is bogus, since the Ninth Amendment applies only to the federal government and not at the state level. However, there is still the question of whether or not there is in fact a right to die.

People often speak as though the question is whether or not people should have the right to die. However, this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of a right. A right is not something that is awarded by the governing authority; a right is not something that is up for vote. Either it exists or it does not.

The question remains: is there a right to die?

Suicide is something that is fundamentally selfish. It is the statement that the way I feel is more important than anything or anyone else in the entire world. It is an act of despair, a loss of hope, and a loss of love for the world and those in it. And it is a loss for which everyone in the world is truly responsible.

Although suicide, in my opinion, is never justified, it is something that cannot possibly be judged by anybody without rank hypocrisy. We are all guilty for our lack of compassion for others. Every time we pass somebody on the street and act like they don’t even exist, every time we ignore that weird guy in the back of the class because we don’t want to damage our reputations in front of our friends, we make the world a little bit more alienating.

With that said, the question still remains: is there a right to die?

The answer to that question depends on another: does the world exist for our sake, or do we exist for the world’s sake? If the attitude is that we’ll stay in the world as long as there’s something in it for us, then suicide is a perfectly reasonable action. However, if the attitude is the other way around, then suicide is the ultimate abandoning of one’s post.

Is there a right to die? I do not know. I’m not sure if I even believe in rights theory at all. All I know is that suicide represents a failure, not only of that person’s will, but of the basic human decency of those around. And that failure is not something that ought to be sanctioned.