Reading the blurred line.

 Since being asked to tackle 'End of Life' this week I have been thinking about how to present my thoughts. I toyed with the idea of an allegory (two old men on a park bench - one about to kill himself, and the ensuing discussion) to illustrate the points but it would be simpler to come straight out and say what I think. Also parts of it may have been unnecessarily upsetting to some readers who have been  affected by suicide.

To be clear, the end of life issue we are shortly to vote on is not a discussion of suicide and its ramifications. There are factors and considerations involved in the suicide of a healthy person which are way beyond the scope of a conversation about euthanasia. 

And therein, possibly, lies a blurred line. When does suicide become an 'end of life' choice? Terminal illness? Seemingly incurable sadness? An inability to care for oneself? 

There's a slight irony here; it seems that a person might be eligible, in the minds of some, to choose to end their own life only if they are physically unable to do it for themselves.

This is perhaps the crux of the matter: Does a person who kills another person upon the genuine, earnest, and considered request of that other person commit murder? Of course it might depend on the reason for that request. It would be absurd if the person making the request was simply having a bad day. At the other extreme the person making the request might be unable to articulate it by reason of being, apparently, in a coma but nonetheless sentient. In the case of the latter example - the situation known variously as 'pulling the plug' or 'turning off the life support' is widely accepted to be a reasonable thing to do. It often generates a lot of conflict though, usually between doctors and family members, or family members and other family members. This shows what an emotive issue it is, even at the end of the spectrum where a case for prolonging a life can hardly be made.

I think this is an issue on which every person must decide for themselves, and yet there must be an official stance - hence the referendum. Fortunately we live in a democracy and so we can all state our view and the outcome can be determined by whichever view is most commonly held.

Not that it matters, but my view is this: As an avowed atheist, fan of science and empirical enquiry, and an apologist for individual thought and critical reasoning, I think that a person should have the right to end their own life.  Of course the considerations are varied and many, and that is why each one of us should give serious thought to the subject, and then vote on it. 

And if you don't agree with the outcome, well that's democracy; you might just have to go into politics and do something about it.


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