The skeptic might ask: Why object to legalized suicide, particularly where terminally ill patients are concerned? If people want to take their own lives, why should anyone feel entitled to stand in the way?
The answer is twofold. For one, we should not as a rule grant doctors the prerogative to help kill their patients. The whole history of medicine has been one of improved healing or, in terminal cases, reduced suffering; euthanasia, which devalues life to the point of liquidation, is the precise opposite of good and responsible medical care. To legalize suicide in this way is to weaponize the medical system against the very people to which it should be most attentive.
On a deeper, more substantive level, legalized suicide strikes at the heart of one of the most indispensible ideas in human history: That every human life is precious beyond reckoning and worthy of both honor and protection. Killing someone, even someone who is already dying, directly controverts this principle; you cannot inject people with fatal doses of barbiturates without declaring, however implicitly, that their lives are worth less than an artificial minimum standard.
Those who advocate for legalized suicide see it as a matter of radical autonomy: We should leave it up to each individual to determine the worth of his own life, up to and including an act of suicide. But this is simply an evasive, almost cowardly instance of passing the buck. If you are actively or even passively complicit in an act of euthanasia, you cannot say you do not, in some way, agree with the suicidal person’s assertion that his life is a waste and that he is better off dead.
It is philosophically unavoidable.
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