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You want me to do what?


On Election Day in November, in addition to electing a president, we the people of Massachusetts, or at least those of us who take the trouble to vote, will be deciding whether to legalize prescribing "medication" to end someone's life. Question 2 is a ballot question, and I for one plan to vote NO. For one thing, I don't like medications that are actually lethal. Without euphemism, we used to call them simply "poison."

I think human life is inherently valuable, inviolable and unalienable. Even or especially when it becomes difficult or painful, as happens with illness and/or old age. I do not think it is the business of government or of individuals to be making the judgment that someone else's life is not worth living, and consequently enabling third parties to help kill them. Suicide is something I regard with horror, partly because a strain of mental illness runs in my family, so suicidal urges and thoughts are not something foreign to my experience. But I associate them with depression and mental illness.

While suicide is not technically illegal, assisted suicide has always been illegal because it helps kill someone. Consent, it should be noted, has never been a defense to the charge of homicide. (In this, it is unlike some other crimes like rape.) The proposed law does not generally require a psychological evaluation of the people requesting the lethal drugs to assure that they are in their right mind. So much for the proposed "safeguards"!

Our religious tradition has always viewed suicide as encompassed within the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." But you don't have to be against assisted suicide for religious reasons, anymore than abolitionists could only have religious reasons to be against slavery. Their view was that human freedom was unalienable, and therefore a person could never totally surrender their freedom through human slavery. The same is true with life, another of our unalienable rights, in the words of the Declaration of Independence.

Of course, suicide is a choice unlike other choices in that it closes off options, rather than opening them up. Human life and liberty are goods that are also mysteries, not problems to be solved. Obviously, you can eliminate pain and suffering by eliminating the sufferer. But that is targeting the victim rather than the disease.

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