Does a human have a right to kill themselves? Often one key difference between those who claim to be libertarians and most other political philosophies is the answer to this question. Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals – most (not all) emphatically say no. Libertarians, on the other hand, with a few liberals (neoliberals) say yes. We do NOT belong to the state.
(Remember, saying someone has the right to do something voluntarily is NOT the same as supporting or encouraging someone to do something. We here at The Price of Liberty will (and have) worked hard to keep someone from killing themselves. We think it is a bad, and unchangable, idea.)
But how someone kills themselves is something that may find disagreement – sincere disagreement – between lovers of liberty.
Clearly, suicide in a way which endangers other people is not in accordance with fundamental principles of liberty: it is taking aggressive action against an innocent person or persons. But is that the case with “death by cop,” more and more common? Many do not consider police to be “innocent” persons and do not consider risk to them as being aggression. (Not a position we hold here at TPOL.) The same concept would apply to what many people believe to be a leading method of suicide in the States: death by vehicle collision. Is not the suicide endangering other people on the road? It is certainly the case in an odd “fad” about a decade ago of “chemical suicide” in automobiles where people mixed chemicals together in the enclosed space of their car – especially if they did not put up warning signs.
And is it an “ethical” way to die if the self-killer does not endanger someone physically but uses another person as the tool of their death and thus creates significant mental and emotional problems? Or is that just another version of claiming that merely offending someone is aggression. That, after all, is a frequent claim by woke persons used to censor free speech – and generally rejected by lovers of liberty. I know of a suicide who killed themselves by intentionally driving their little 4-wheel off-road vehicle into the path of a semi-truck. Little chance of physical harm to the truck driver, and actually little damage to the truck – but the stress led to many problems.
Which brings us round-about to the main point of this macabre commentary. Assisted suicide. Especially (but not only) medically-assisted suicide. Such a thing is increasingly common in Europe. (Especially in the so-called progressive Netherlands.) And there are now 10 States that allow physician-assisted suicide – 9 by legislation and one (Montana) “courtesy” of a State nazgul (supreme court) decision. DC also allows it. Except for Montana, every one (CA, OR, WA, HA, CO, NM, ME, VT, NJ) are so-called liberal States. They all appear to limit it to situations where death is imminent (usually within 6 months). And all 50 States prohibit “euthanasia.”
There are, from the point of view of lovers of liberty, several problems. First is a moral and ethical issue for doctors and other medical providers: the violation of the Hippocratic Oath which is (was?) a foundation of medical ethics. “I will refrain from all evil and injustice. I will not give poison to anyone, if asked, nor will I take the initiative to make such a suggestion.” And given other problems over the decades and especially in the past few years, the trust that people can have in the medical professionals declines still more. “First do no harm” seems pretty clear, no? But more and more people with the “right” initials after their names seem to have given up on that. As the half-century of the battle over abortion demonstrations.
The second problem is government. (Readers, you knew we were going to get around to that.) Right now, here in the States, it is the physician or other medical provider that is allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to help someone kill themselves. It started out that way in Europe, also. But the track record of government is clear: what is not prohibited all too often (and sometimes quickly) becomes mandatory. Sooner or later, as with homosexual “marriage” and sex change operations and therapy and chemical abortion, some State (or locality) will pass and enforce a law mandating that “to protect the rights of the person wanting to die,” medical providers must provide assistance.
Finally, is it a violation of our principles, as lovers of liberty, to assist someone to kill themselves? Is that not an act of aggression against them? How is that different from enslaving someone who volunteers to be a slave? Or other actions? It is an emotional as well as intellectual dilemma, is it not?
And we also raise the ugly specter of euthanasia – and forcing people to carry it out. Many of us view assisted suicide as nothing more than voluntary euthanasia, but worry that more than once in the past – and even today in some lands, it is taking place without the consent of the soon-to-be deceased person.
Once again is this not violating a basic concept of liberty: forcing someone to do something? At least in our eyes that seems to be the case. No matter what is said about “due process” and “court orders” – it is still the state, the government, forcing people to act.
Hence the dilemma for lovers of liberty: can a right to life also include a right to death? Enforced – or even provided – by the state? Can we as libertarians morally, ethicly assist? Think on these things.
Disclaimer: This commentary is not promoting suicide. If you are considering suicide, please PLEASE seek help immediately. Stateside, call 988.
“Does a human have a right to kill themselves?”
Where does this fall on the “my body, my life” spectrum? Is killing oneself better or worse than the killing of another? If so, how much worse? Or, how much better? Measured on what scale?
I don’t consider suicide necessarily a Bad Thing; I’ve suggested it to a number of people. In many cases it can be an act of polite consideration for others in that it avoids murder charges and expensive legal bills. As to whether “assisted” or “completely self directed” I’d have to side with “assisted” being of such extremely questionable ethics, morals, legality and authority that it therefore should unquestionably be banned in its entirety. That the assistance – and the acceptance and authorization of the practice – comes from government should, in rational minds, make even the consideration of such practice anathema.
As for “self directed” being some degree of acceptable, I’d think that is entirely dependent on the facts of each individual case; that suicide is usually termed “a permanent solution to a temporary problem” is accurate, but sometimes the problem isn’t temporary. Does that change the calculus? If so, how and to what degree?
The severely religious proselytize that earthly existence is (some degree) of purgatory, existing as a trial to form a step to a blessed eternal salvation which we all seek. If that’s actually the case why would it be wrong for someone to accelerate that move? Should not we all pursue that blessed state with full vigor? If so, should one reach the pinnacle of the purgatory completion process would not actively going to the next step be a positive thing? On what measurement scale does “suicide to achieve salvation at age 40 is not acceptable but dying of cancer at age 82 is acceptable because it automatically grants salvation” fall, and where?
If such salvation comes after death, what came before conception (and, hopefully, resultant birth)? A pre-purgatorial pre-salvation of some kind?
But why would a society, or a humanity, which not only cheerfully accepts abortion as “reasonable” but provides funding, transportation and counseling assistance to achieve it find fault with “assisted suicide”? It’s been joked about that killing a 30-year-old is merely a “93rd trimester abortion” but what’s the real difference?
You raise a good many important points and questions – perhaps people will have some suggestions.
Regarding religion – at least ‘christianity’ – the Bible does not explicitly condemn suicide but many (most?) commentators consider suicide as “self-murder” and therefore a sinful act of murder: killing an innocent person. Which in turn raises many other questions.
Your point about assisted suicide being accepted/authorized by government is important: government taints everything. Laws against suicide (unlike moral or religious objections) seem to be based on the sick idea that we belong to society and therefore to government: the “sovereign” whom we are denying our obedience and allegiance.
Looking forward to your thoughts and those of other readers!
It is my life,my body, I will do with it I please.Government or people have no right to control what I do as long as it does not harm others.
I will use a phrase, used by others: “My body, my choice”.
Yes, we may not think it is a very good idea, but their choice. The dilemma has to do with involving others and endangering others. When someone throws themselves off a skyscraper, and hits and kills someone else, is that not an act of aggression?
I am talking about shooting yourself, taking pills. Jumping off a building the people are not thinking of others.
Death as a result of pain management is not considered murder… but Palliative care..humanity attempting to alleviate horrific suffering..unto death.
So, Mark, in the eyes of Rome, it is a matter of intent. That seems to match both Biblical teaching and the political philosophy of libertarians. And to be increasingly ignored by government and the prevailing “health establishment.”