Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Suicide Tourist

That's the name of the PBS Frontline program that I watched (you can watch it online) tonight.

You can probably figure out that it had something to do with suicide, but are somewhat baffled about the "tourist" part. Well, Switzerland has laws in effect that allow assisted suicide for non-Swiss residents. It isn't that simple, of course, but do-able without being overly difficult.

This particular program was about a man that was in the advanced stages of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease); he needed assistance even with breathing. Rather than wait for the disease to play out "naturally", he (after discussing it with his wife of 37 years) decided to end his life. It began shortly before he actually travelled to Switzerland, and ended shortly after his death. It does an exemplary job of presenting HIS views and reasons for making such a choice, and how it affected his wife and two grown kids.

I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that the man opted to end his own life by taking the voluntary action of sucking an overdose of a prescription sleeping compound through a straw; it was not "dispensed" or "given" TO him. Great care was taken to ensure that HE was the one that took the actions that would end his life, and that he was free to change his mind at any point for any reason,

For a long time, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the subject of assisted suicide, with side arguments regarding the morals, ethics, and legality of the matter.

Myself, I'm of the opinion (and do my very best to live that way) that people should be free to do pretty much any damn thing they want, so long as they don't cause harm to those unwilling to accept it. That is, each of us has to make our own decisions for our own reasons, and accept the consequences of our choices -- and that we should be free of interference from those that disagree with our choices.

What this program did was to remind me of some of the questions that I've never heard properly addressed amid all the other discussion on suicide (assisted or otherwise).
  • Why, exactly, are so many so ready to automatically and universally decide that suicide is absolutely wrong for everyone, all the time?
  • What makes the above individuals think that they have the right/obligation to make such a decision for someone else?
  • If a person's physical body isn't theirs as the most basic and fundamental example of "property rights", making them the ultimate arbiter of what to do with it, then who the hell DOES it belong to?

Time is running out

Well, kind of.
The recent earthquake in Chile shifted the planet's axis by about 8 cm and shortened days by 1.26 microseconds