One response to “The Right to Die

  1. Laura Hahn

    This issue raised by Monica in this blog “The Right to Die” sheds light on some of the readings of Power and Faden we will be discussing in this week’s class. As Monica has begun to suggest in her discussion, there seems to exist a shadowy middle ground when it comes to judging where the line exists between preserving life and respecting the dimensions of well-being of an individual. On one hand, our Christian view upholds that every human has been made in the image and likeness of God, whose entire humanity is based on human dignity and respect for one’s own life and the life of our neighbors. In fact, the Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church upholds this human dignity with regards to any form of suicide by stating that “Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.” Suicide is thus an injustice to both one’s self and mankind.
    However, the Church’s position on the matter of suicide seems contradictory one of the six dimensions of well-being discussed in ch. 2 of Powers and Faden: self-determination. The Bible exclaims that no human action should be committed that harms the human dignity of life, however, as described by Powers and Faden, the dimension of self-determination leaves room for a person to justify taking their own life, thus violating the sacredness of God’s gift of life.
    Self determination, as discussed in this part of the book upholds that there is “direct value in leading a self-determining life” (Powers and Faden, 26). To exercise the dimension of self-determination is to “determine one’s self and not be directed by others, no matter how wise or benevolent; my conduct derives an irreplaceable value from my soul” (27). While the principle of self-determination is mostly applied in situations where a person’s freedom is directly being suppressed by another, isn’t it not the same type of oppression, just in a different form when an extreme physical disability, mental disability, or psychological disability affects an individual’s opportunity to make something of one’s life through their own efforts. If self-determination is such an essential aspect to a person’s well being, then what is the proper way to address those individuals who have lost the ability to be self-determinant in their daily life since they have become 100% dependent on another for their basic needs. Can their last chance of being self-determinant by choosing to end their life be justly ignored? Is there a case to be made for people such as Tony Dicklinson or Dax Coward who have attempted to utilize their understanding of self-determination by requesting to end their life? Did Dax not have the right to refuse treatment after being severely mutilated in a gas explosion, leaving him with debilitating injuries that have limited his ability to be a self-determinant person? Or were the paramedics treating Dax operating justly under the Christian condition of preserving life at all costs? Can there be times when the moral decision and the just decision are at odds with one another?
    I do not believe there is any easy answer to the questions proposed by Monica or myself. One of the many factors which fuel this uncertainty is the fact that it is impossible to standardize any form of pain as humanly bearable or unbearable. Our true hope in resolving these difficult questions lies in our ability to continually look at what experience and our resources have to offer to enlighten us more as to where to draw the line between preserving life and protecting human rights.

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