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By Layla Haidrani on 17.10.2023

The Right To Die

“Is it possible for someone like me and you to arrange for yourself the death that you want?” The BBC documentary with Terry Prachett sparked controversy in Britain with these words. Is it ethically right to allow someone to die? Is there ever a justifiable reason? Is helping someone to die who is terminally ill moral? With the practice legal in Switzerland since 1941, it has thrown up many ethical dilemmas for many people.

The right to die debate has sparked fury and controversy among all religious communities, who view it as a form of murder. With the Bible stressing the importance of the sanctity of life, many Christians believe that suffering is an inevitable and important test of life. This has posed problems for many people who believe that either theirs or their family members’ suffering and pain is too great to continue living, but what happens when enough is enough? Take the cases of terminally ill cancer patients who have suffered an inordinate amount of pain and suffering. Is it viable to allow somebody to continue suffering when their lives will end very soon?

This has been exemplified in the case of Michelle Clements of Kent who assisted in her husband’s death in Switzerland and is campaigning for a change in UK laws. Having undergone the trauma of her husband’s health declining, she helped assist with his death. What is brought into question is that people must suffer further in that they view assisted suicide as a more viable option than living life in too much pain. The right to die question brings in the quality of life debate; for many, if there is no quality of life, life is not valuable.

It is arguable that the media and individuals such as Terry Prachett somewhat glamourize the right to die. Society shows no sign of slowing down with more and more people opting for assisted suicide. Take the case of Chris Woodhead, previously director of Ofsted, who has terminal Motor Neurone Syndrome and is opting for assisted suicide. Although the right to die has not been legalised in the UK, and there seems no likelihood of it occurring, many people have resorted to helping other people to die, for example in Switzerland which has a lenient policy on assisted suicide.

There are many support groups such as Caring Not Killing who believe that the solution is in fact with palliative care. The problem with the right to die campaign is by giving people the opportunity to allow themselves to die it can be perceived as a very selfish act. Not only for the family members that will suffer loss, but for many people who are pro-life. Cancer patients and war victims would do anything to keep themselves alive yet people are throwing away lives. Society as a whole should ensure that assisted suicide should not be legalised for this very reason. By keeping Britain’s laws strict and enforced on assisted suicide which remains illegal, this has ensured that people must continue to live their lives fully despite the fact that they may be terminally ill. Nonetheless, we must be aware that people value life. They feel they lack quality of life and want to die before their lives end.

For religious and moral reasons, the right to die is not a viable solution to suffering and should not be used to end life purely because it is available. Of course there are cases where people suffer heinously and are terminally ill, but is it a viable moral ethical decision to end someone’s life? Perhaps the right to die will still be one of society’s last taboos.

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