It must be said that those seeking physician-assisted suicide must have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Someone with a broken toe wouldn’t qualify. The premise being that a terminally ill person, say someone with brain cancer, should have the right to avoid the needless pain and suffering the cancer will cause, and instead just end their life then and there. This of course was the argument that the late Brittany Maynard made bringing this policy into the limelight.
Admittedly, most can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to be placed in her circumstances. But one can’t help but see the obvious similarities between her decision to prevent suffering by ending her own life, and the desperate thoughts going through the mind of a person standing on the edge of a bridge. For if we are going to enshrine into law the ability, rather the right for someone to choose to end their own life, why deter them from jumping off a bridge?
For someone to even consider jumping, must also find themselves in very difficult circumstances tempting them to despair. In fact, suicides off the Colorado Street Bridge spiked during the Great Depression, which would make sense. People were struggling to put food on the table. Easier to jump off a bridge then to face needless suffering or to be a burden to society—which is in fact an argument that proponents of the End of Life Option Act make.
So what’s the difference in these two cases? There isn’t one. No doubt, some of those who have met death 144’ below the bridge were themselves suffering internally after a soul-shaking diagnosis of a terminal illness, just like Mrs. Maynard. In those instances, shouldn’t we be rejoicing at their freedom to choose to end their lives? Well, in California we’d be more likely to give them a push and wish them well.
The irrationality of it all is that anybody witnessing even a stranger standing on the edge of a bridge, on the top of a building, or in front of an oncoming train would put in their best effort to get the person to step down and encourage them not to lose hope. And rightly they should. Such people are lauded as heroes because they have reached out to save someone from ending their own life.
Yet in California although we must discourage people from jumping off bridges, we are more than willing to hand them a syringe of deadly drugs to get the job done. A meager dose of intellectual honesty and consistency would go a long way in this regard. The same logic used to discourage jumpers off bridges, should also be applied to cancer patients, pregnant rape victims, and fetuses with Down Syndrome.
Life is a gift, a precious gift. And every unique person—no matter who they are or what they’ve done—is sacred. The right that should be defended is the right of every human being to live their life, not to end it.
Freedom is one of the most precious gifts that God has bestowed upon us. In being created in His image we have the power to use our free will and rational intellect to make our own choices. But this precious gift only works with the correct first principals and a properly formed conscience.
“The man who begins to think without the proper first principles goes mad.” G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 2
This is at the root of the abortion debate. One side claims superiority in the right of the mother of the unborn child to choose whether or not that child should live or die. In all actuality though, this side doesn’t consider the unborn child a human being until birth. The other side says that the unborn child is a separate, living being with it’s own rights primarily of which is the right to live. With this most basic and fundamental of human rights, nothing else in what we call civilized society even matters. The former, which advocates for all kinds of justice for categories of people they often create out of thin air, are unable to accept the truth of the matter as Mr. Shapiro explains.
“The abortion debate is very simple. Either you believe that it’s a life or you believe that it’s not. If you don’t believe that it’s a life than you can do whatever you want with it. It’s the same as a kidney. If you believe it’s a life then it is fundamentally immoral and evil to allow somebody to kill it. In the same way that it was fundamentally immoral and evil for you to live next door to a slave owner in 1847 and not try to do anything about it. So that’s what the abortion debate is. It has nothing to do with a women’s right to choose.” Ben Shapiro, The Daily Wire
The fundamental truth that must be grasped by even the most fervent advocate of physician-assisted suicide or of abortion is so simple that you could find it in a children’s book. Even Dr. Seuss even puts it to rhyme in Horton Hears a Who: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
If we expect even young children to understand these arguments as objective truth, what in the wide world makes it so difficult for we as educated adults? As Chesterton said, without the proper first principles, without the firm basis in reality and objective truth, then nothing else matters and nothing else makes sense. We’ve all gone mad.
Yes it’s good to protect freedom, and to exercise those freedoms. But when the exercise of your freedom is to reach out and punch me in the face, the line between your freedom and my freedom has been violated. Freedom doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want. It means that you ought to do what is right.
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life…” Deuteronomy 30:19