Working for the Right-to-Die
Before voluntary death will be permitted and
condoned in our society,
a major shift will have to take place in our thinking about death,
especially in distinguishing voluntary death from irrational suicide.
3. thoughtfully, compassionately planned.
4. tragic, regrettable.
4. admirable, commendable.
1. When people commit irrational suicide, they
If we review the people we knew who foolishly killed themselves,
we feel the terrible damage they did to themselves as well as their
But sometimes (often in terminal illness) we
recognize voluntary deaths
that genuinely benefited both the patients and their loved ones.
When all curative treatments have been tried without success,
the greatest help we
can sometimes give to the dying is to help them to die.
suicide is an unwise act of self-killing
usually based on a misapprehension of the facts of one's situation
and/or an emotionally-distorted perspective on the future.
People 'commit' irrational suicide for a variety of reasons:
because they have lost someone they love,
because they have been disappointed in some major endeavor,
because they have lost all their money,
because their deaths will 'punish' others,
because they were intoxicated and didn't know what they were doing.
Society does have a legitimate
right and duty to try to prevent
people from killing themselves for any such irrational 'reasons'.
And people saved from suicide are usually thankful they were
In contrast, voluntary death is a rational choice to die,
a decision based on a clear and realistic grasp of unchangeable facts.
When such a proposed voluntary death is discussed with others,
they are led by the same facts to the same conclusion:
Death at this time is probably better than lingering suffering.
suicide is often capricious—taken
on the spur of the moment—
in an overwhelming emotional state precipitated by a sudden crisis.
For example, a woman finds herself abandoned by her partner,
who has replaced her with a younger woman.
Without her long-term partner, life is not worth living; she feels
In her irrational despair she tries to kill herself.
If she survives, she might later see this response as completely
52 BECOMING MORE AUTHENTIC: THE POSITIVE SIDE OF EXISTENTIALISM
by JAMES PARK
deaths are thoughtfully
and compassionately planned.
Such decisions do not emerge suddenly at moments of crisis
but only after long periods of thoughtful reflection and discussion.
Imagine, for example, a woman of 85 in the last stages of terminal
Thru-out her adult life she has affirmed the right to voluntary death.
And she takes other people's feelings into consideration.
She carefully plans the best time, place, & means for her death,
consulting with those close to her who also affirm the right-to-die.
She creates a rational plan and shares it with others well in advance.
Perhaps at least a year of preparation should be required
before any death should be called a truly rational, voluntary act.
We need plenty of time to think about ending our own lives,
to discuss our voluntary deaths with others, and perhaps to change our
suicide is always regrettable
When we first hear that someone has committed irrational suicide,
we wonder what could have been done to prevent this needless death.
This person could possibly have been saved from irrational
if the proper kinds of loving support had been provided.
We mourn rather than rejoice for those who
commit irrational suicide.
On the other hand, we admire those who have the
to prepare to die in the ways that seem best to them.
When we hear of a truly rational, well-planned death,
we are inspired to be serious about our own coming deaths.
We might decide to write our own statements
explaining the conditions under which we would request death.
If the only alternative is lingering suffering
followed months later by a meaningless, drugged death,
then we might decide that voluntary death is a wise choice.
Differences between Irrational Suicide and Voluntary Death"
is a four-page essay by James Park.
It can be found on the Internet by clicking the title above.]
We can all think of examples of irrational
people who jumped off bridges because they were depressed,
people who took sleeping pills because they were rejected in love,
people who crashed their cars because they could not face financial
But it is more difficult to think of good examples of voluntary death.
However, as our medical technology becomes
better able to prolong 'life',
we will encounter more cases in which almost everyone agrees
that it is better to 'pull the plug' than to prolong the process of
Rather than a slow, meaningless decline into death,
a quick, painless death would be preferred by almost everyone involved
—the patient, the medical personnel, the family and friends.
WORKING FOR THE RIGHT TO DIE by JAMES
Public attitudes and generic medical ethics will have to change
to permit people to select an appropriate death with dignity
rather than be subjected to the lengthy and expensive process of dying
that medical science and hospital practice can now produce.
Doing everything to prolong 'life'
might not be in the best interests of any of the people concerned.
And as the public becomes more aware of medically-prolonged dying,
there will be significant movement toward more humane care.
Helping to bring about the social and medical
that will make voluntary death possible could be an Authentic
The right-to-die might not come thru the legislative process
—because so many people fear abuses of any such 'right'.
Some people oppose the right-to-die for religious reasons:
Let God decide; people should not interfere in the dying process.
(Do such opponents know what interventions are now used to prolong
Sometimes opponents of 'euthanasia' can put enough pressure on lawmakers
to prevent them from making intelligent laws concerning death-planning.
The right-to-die might emerge in the following
The right to refuse all medical treatment is already well established.
When such choices are wise and rational, everyone cooperates.
The reasons for such life-ending decisions can be put into writing.
Doctors already increase pain-medication or even induce 'terminal
which keeps the patient unconscious until death occurs naturally.
Most hospital-deaths already include significant elements of voluntary
Patients and/or their proxies already make life-ending decisions,
which allow the patients to choose the best pathway toward death.
Slowly it might be recognized that we already do have the right-to-die.
As choice in dying becomes more explicitly recognized in medical
some people who initially opposed the very idea of voluntary death
might in their later years make their own rational life-ending
Such is the way the right to terminate pregnancy was won.
The practice was established and then the laws were ruled
is just as unconstitutional as compulsory pregnancy.
If we focus our Authenticity toward
establishing the right-to-die,
we have many ways to work toward greater freedom in medical choices.
We can organize, write, speak, & counsel individuals who are dying.
We can create and support national organizations working for the
The Right-to-Die Portal on the Internet
provides lots of links
to books and articles exploring all aspects of the right-to-die:
bibliographies with extensive reviews of books for and against the
books exploring voluntary death; books on helping people to die.
There are also links to organizations working for the right-to-die.
You will find this portal by searching the Internet for "Right-to-Die Portal".
54 BECOMING MORE AUTHENTIC: THE POSITIVE SIDE OF EXISTENTIALISM
by JAMES PARK
The three pages above is the complete chapter 12
The Positive Side of Existentialism
If you would like to see the whole table of contents, click this title.
If you wish to cite anything from these three pages,
use the page numbers at the bottoms of the pages:
James Park Becoming More
Authentic: The Positive Side of Existentialism
(Minneapolis, MN: Existential Books: www.existentialbooks.com,