Friday, June 22 , 2018, 5:06 am | Overcast 60º


Randy Alcorn: There Is No Greater Freedom Than to Choose One’s Own Death

​Freedom is all about personal choice, and there is nothing more personal than one’s very being — one’s mind, body and life.

What one chooses to do with these, as long as it does no real harm to others, is the essence of liberty. That liberty includes when to end one’s life — for whatever reason. There is no greater freedom of choice that that.

The proposed California law that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it has been sidelined in the Assembly because supporters fear there are not yet enough votes to pass it.

Organized opponents of assisted suicide are pressing legislators to reject passage of laws allowing it. Whether their opposition is based on religious beliefs, or on concerns that the law would be abused, the opponents’ intentions may be good but their insistence that everyone live — and die — as they prescribe is not.

Paternalistic busybodies will intrude on and often obstruct victimless personal liberties; however, there are liberties that should be allowed only to sane adults.

In the five states that allow assisted suicide, and the 25 others considering its legalization, the laws — existing or proposed — recognize that minors and the mentally incompetent are not qualified to make rational decisions about ending their lives.

These laws require that at least two physicians review each case and agree that the patient is both terminally ill and mentally competent to make the decision. Additionally, some require a waiting period before the requesting patient is actually given the lethal prescription.

While proponents of assisted suicide cite unendurable pain as the main motivation for people seeking to end their lives, Oregon, the first state to allow physician-assisted suicide, reports that the primary reasons given by those seeking assisted suicide have been loss of autonomy, decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable and loss of dignity.

Assisted-suicide opponents believe these or any reasons are insufficient to end one’s life. They can’t abide that some folks, for their own reasons, are just dying to leave.

The debonair English actor George Sanders, who killed himself by ingesting bottles of barbiturates, left a suicide note: “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored.”

Apparently boredom can be unendurable agony — at least it was for Sanders — but, then, no one experiences life exactly the same way as someone else does. What is unendurable agony is very personal. Keep this in mind when considering such weighty issues as assisted suicide.

With the exception of a few churches, organized Christianity strongly opposes suicide of any kind. The opposition is based on beliefs that life is a gift from God, who is the only one authorized to determine the expiration date of that gift.

This belief underlies the churches’ emphasis on the importance of letting the natural process of death run its course — no matter how excruciatingly painful, morbidly miserable or humiliatingly undignified that process may be.

The religious argument against assisted suicide is particularly meritless because it is based on the notion of a deity whose existence can neither be proved nor disproved.

It is particularly pernicious because it seeks to curtail personal freedom by imposing religious beliefs, along with all their scriptural interpretations and divine commandments, on everyone.

The secular opposition to assisted suicide arises from the typical paternalistic worries of potential harm. The fear is that people with financial motives might coerce the disabled, depressed or unwanted to end their lives.

Additionally, America’s profit-driven health-care insurers might eagerly embrace and encourage euthanasia as the most cost-efficient treatment. That unethical possibility would likely be offset by another — greedy health-care providers fattening their billings by prolonging terminal patients’ wretched deaths.

Certainly, abuses might occur to some extent, but if potential harm were the justification for disallowing liberty and invention, human progress and pursuit of happiness would be stymied. There would be far less technology because some people misuse it, causing harm to themselves and to others. There would be far fewer medical treatments because some people suffer harmful reactions to them.

The freedom to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet or drive a car without a seatbelt would be prohibited — whoops, those personal freedoms have already been taken away by paternalistic busybodies.

Not much in life comes without some risk, nor is life as exhilarating without it. Invoking risk as a reason to deny people the freedom to choose a comfortable, peaceful death rather than a messy or prolonged, painful one is a rationalization for imposing your choice on others.

If you believe that suicide is wrong, fine, don’t commit suicide. That is your choice. Allow others to make theirs.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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