A few days ago, multiple news stations reported on Neil Gorsuch’s emotional statement about the right (or lack thereof) to die. According to him, death with dignity is morally wrong. This is why I wholeheartedly disagree.
Bodily integrity is probably one of the best arguments a person can use in order to argue in favor of death with dignity.
Defined as the “inviolability of the physical body,” bodily integrity “emphasizes the importance of personal autonomy and the self-determination of human beings over their own bodies.”
Essentially, this means that every individual has complete autonomy over their own bodies and, therefore, should have full control over their bodies, even after death.
In fact, the Supreme Court upheld this concept during McFall v. Shimp when it ruled that a person cannot be forced to donate bone marrow, even if doing so would save someone else’s life.
Now, that same concept applies to individuals who opt out of any type of organ donation. That said, it’s illegal to harvest organs from a dead person who, in life, did not sign up to be a donor.
This is exactly why death with dignity should be legal across all 50 states.
If a terminally ill individual would prefer to die at the time of their choosing, while they’re still able to function and not in excessive amounts of pain, they should be able to do so because they have bodily integrity.
When we obey the orders of the dead and disrespect the requests of the living, we, as a society, are more or less giving more bodily integrity to our dead than we are to our living and that, above all else, is what’s immoral.
Of course, that does come with limitations. A person who is simply suicidal because they’re depressed is not, by law, allowed to end their life by citing the death with dignity law.
Instead, death with dignity is meant to serve those who suffer with painful, terminal illnesses and they must be proved to be of sound mind before taking any death-inducing drug.
A Less Painful Passing
In addition to bodily integrity, there’s also the irrefutable fact that death with dignity can prevent prolonged suffering.
This is unarguable and, because only the person in question truly knows how much pain they’re in, when they decide it becomes too much, they should be allowed to pass pain-free.
Furthermore, some terminal illnesses slowly take away a person’s ability to control their movements. One such disease is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which approximately 30,000 Americans currently suffer from. And every day, 15 more people are newly diagnosed with ALS.
From the time of diagnosis, a person with ALS typically only lives three to five years. During the later stages of the disease, most will become completely paralyzed.
So when, toward the end of their lives, they lose the ability to move anything except their eyeballs, what does that leave them with?
Which is yet another reason to support death with dignity.
It makes more sense to let them choose when they want to stop fighting their battle instead of selfishly forcing them to stick around for the sake of others.
Personally, I find choosing to die with dignity much more moral and humane than forcing sick individuals to live lives of pain and poor quality until their diseases finally kill them.
Waiting to say “goodbye” to dying loved ones is often one of the hardest parts of preparing for their death.
However, when the amount of time a person has left is determined by an unpredictable disease, it can be difficult to know when to say goodbye. Unfortunately, some individuals are robbed of this opportunity due to waiting too long and, therefore, find it hard to obtain closure.
Death with dignity prevents that by allowing a sick individual to choose a date and time to end their life. They can invite friends and family members to stay by their side as they pass and some people, such as Brittany Maynard, even choose to celebrate the time they have left by traveling and checking off items on their “bucket lists.”
Betsy Davis, a 41-year-old woman who suffered from ALS, chose to celebrate the final day of her life by throwing a party. Over 30 friends and family members attended and they spent the day telling stories, listening to music, watching movies, eating junk food, laughing, and smiling. In fact, Davis even left sticky notes on some of her items and left them to specific friends. She invited her loved ones to try on her clothes and take whatever they wanted as she would no longer need them.
At the end of the day, Davis was driven to a mountain top where she watched the sunset before taking a lethal cocktail of drugs. She fell into a coma peacefully before passing away four hours later. She died surrounded by her loved ones and she was able to say her piece to everyone she cared about prior to passing.
For some reason, some people find this kind of death to be immoral or wrong.
Personally, I can’t fathom why.
To me, death with dignity is about giving terminally ill individuals some semblance of control over their lives as well as allowing them to pass pain-free. Death with dignity allows both the individual and their family members to say their final goodbyes and prevents them from losing that opportunity by allowing their unpredictable illnesses to kill them.
I believe death with dignity should be a right for all terminally ill people and I hope that it will someday be the law of the land.
To learn more about the death with dignity movement, or learn how to start a discussion in your state, click here.