Essay on : Is There a Right to Die?
The right to die hinges on the belief that human beings are entitled to terminate their life, or undergo voluntary euthanasia. Possessing this right means that a person suffering from a terminal illness should be granted the right to end his or her life, or decline life-prolonging medical intervention where such extension would subject the individual to more suffering. However, the question of who has the right to decide whether or not a person should die remains elusive. Proponents argue that the right to die inclines to the fact that one’s life and body are one’s own. Thus, one can dispose of it as he, or she deems fit. However, the state can have a legitimate interest to prevent irrational suicides. The question of the right to die touches on the philosophical basis of life. Just as it is wrong to compel people to die, it is also wrong to force them to endure unbearable conditions. This paper argues that individuals have a right to die.
To begin with, natural rights refer to rights, which do not depend on the customs or laws of any particular government or culture (Wootton 310). They are inalienable and universal. Human’s laws cannot repeal or restrict these rights. John Locke argued that the government has a moral obligation to serve people, by protecting liberty, life, and property (Hobbes 15). In his view, everyone has a right to live and can do anything so long as it does not conflict with the right to life. Every person can own property so long as it does not interfere with the right to liberty and life. The political scholar explained the need for checks and balances as a means of limiting the power of the government. He favored the establishment of the rule of law and a representative government and He denounced tyranny.
Locke further contended that humans have a moral duty to respect lives and liberties of others in a state of nature. He traces this duty to the natural law. According to him, natural rights and natural law coexist, but the natural law serves as the primary law that commands people to respect others. Based on Locke’s conception of natural rights, the state has a limited role in issues surrounding euthanasia (Wootton 312). It can only execute the wish of people as it has been put in place to safeguard the natural rights which it does not have any power to infringe on them. Accordingly, humans have a right to life. This right is natural, inalienable, and cannot be limited in any way by anybody, even the state. The only role of the state is to preserve these inalienable rights.
Many arguments have been advanced against the right to die. Locke rejected the right of people to end their life. In the Leviathan, Locke’s affirms that the natural law forbids people to execute actions which are destructive to their life or end it as a means of preserving it (Hobbes 20). For him, breaking the natural law is immoral and irrational. Based on his argument, humans have the natural right to life and cannot take it away as they deem fit.
On the other hand, proponents raise arguments in support of the right to die. As argued, humans are free to execute whatever they want. They have control over their lives which gives them the power to decide whether or not to die. Individuals need to decide the best for themselves without any limitations. Therefore, when faced with a terminal illness, the patient can request for euthanasia to end the suffering and safeguard the dignity of human life.
Just as individuals value having complete control over their occupation, whom to marry, where to live, and whether to raise a family, they also value exercising control over whether or not to continue living when the quality of life declines. Perhaps, this explains why the right to die is simply an extension of the right to life. In particular, the right to life describes the right to decide whether or not an individual will continue to live. The right to die refers to the right to determine whether a person will die when he or she has the choice of continuing to live. If the right to life only meant the right for one to decide to keep living, but not the right to choose to discontinue living, then it would cease to be a right to life and instead be one’s duty to live. Any law that upholds one’s right to life also acknowledges the right to die.
The rights-based approach emphasizes the respect for the dignity of human life. It contends that human dignity hinges on the ability to decide or choose freely the manner in which one wishes to live his or her life. It also argues that humans have a moral right of respecting choice as rational, free, and equal people as well as a moral duty of respecting others in a similar manner. Some of the rights are guaranteed in the Constitution. They include the right to liberty, free speech, religion, happiness, own property, and more importantly, the right to life. The rights- approach requires the state to identify legitimate rights of people and their duties (Hobbes 20). When confronted with competing or conflicting rights, people need to determine the high merit interest and prioritize the right that ensures or protects the interest. Thus, when the quality of life deteriorates when faced with a terminal illness, then based on the rights approach, the individual may request euthanasia. It will be the best decision to safeguard human dignity. In Belgium children of any age can decide to end their pain when in the final stages of a terminal disease if they can make rational decisions (Nicola Slawson and Agencies 1). Based on the rights approach, any person can make a conscious, rational decision on what to do with his life and others should respect that decision.
In concluding, I agree that humans have the right to die. Locke delves into the debate and provides a philosophical background on the role of government. I support the view that the state has a limited role in preserving people’s natural and inalienable right to life, liberty, and happiness. It cannot limit or regulate these rights with state laws. It does not mean that it cannot end their lives when faced with a terminal illness. As long as a person is capable of making a rational decision in an end-of-life situation, his wishes should be granted to end unnecessary suffering. While Locke’s argument supports the right to life, he fails to acknowledge that the right to die is merely an extension of the former. After all, humans have control over their minds and bodies. Thus, they can decide what they want to do with their life. As it was in the case of the Belgium child, he had a right to receive a dignified death than be subjected to prolonged suffering.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print
Nicola Slawson and Agencies. “Terminally Ill Child First to be helped to Die in Belgium.” The Guardian, 17 Sept. 2016, www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/17/terminally-ill-child-first-helped-to-die-belgium.
Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machievelli to Nietzsche. New York: Hackett Publishing, 1996. Print.