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The Right to Die

"I saw tears glinting in the corners of her eyes. I was the only one who saw them. I pondered then, was she moved, or was it too much pain? Is her living all about our aspirations or the desire to survive? Should we do this? Fortunately, she's no longer feeling pain now, but I will never have the chance to see her, touch her in the same spacetime again." It was the wee hours of Tomb Sweeping Day this year, tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep, I finally reached for my phone and penned these words in a letter titled "To My Grandma." A few days before writing this letter, I came across a profound line in the article "A Crime of Compassion" that resonated deeply with me: "We do not have the right to die."

For two years, on this particular night, I summoned the courage to flip through the photo album and found a video of my grandmother when she was still alive in the hospital ward. It was during the pandemic, and even immediate family members are hard to obtain visitation permits. We played hide-and-seek with doctors and nurses, navigating through obstacles to visit Grandma. She was surrounded by tubes, and her newly grown hair after a craniotomy resembled weeds. The bed sheets and pillows were adorned in a melancholy blue. Such days had persisted for three months, and Grandma had become vegetative, her only response to us being the occasional follow of her eyes. But I saw it, I saw the tears glinting in her eyes.

Were they tears of sentiment or suffering? Were they greetings or cries for help? If I faced such a day in the future, would I be able to make the choice for myself? Do I want to make that choice? I asked myself, and the answer I found was: "I do."

There are many conflicting views the concept of the right to death and whether or not an individual should be able to decide when to end their life. some can agree that in certain cases under unbearable circumstances, such as terminal illness, having the right to death should be an option as it is unethical to force an individual to endure conditions in which they find intolerable. However, the topic can raise concern for people who abide by religious and moral views since the idea of taking one's own life is a notion that goes against their personal or religious beliefs.

These may seem like two contradictory perspectives, yet we must recognize that both these seemingly conflicting views can be resolved with a core principle — respecting one's wishes. Whether it's the agony of a terminal illness or the solace of adhering to religious beliefs, personal wishes should be held paramount. Because for a person, the greatest pain does not solely stem from physical torment; it often originates from the turmoil of the soul. For those who hold religious beliefs above all else, the meaning of life is not merely about the existence of the physical world; it is about the pursuit and adherence to the spiritual realm. To deprive them of their right to seek spiritual liberation and transcendence would inflict a pain far greater than any physical suffering. Therefore, respecting their choices and allowing them to find solace and strength in their religious beliefs is a boundary we must uphold.

On the other hand, for those deeply afflicted by a terminal illness, who prioritize physical pain, the suffering they endure is real and profound. Facing an incurable disease, they may feel helpless and desperate, and ending their lives seems to be their only escape. In such cases, we should also respect their choices and grant them the right to end their lives. Because the dignity of life is not solely defined by its length; it lies in its quality. When they feel that life no longer offers them the dignity they deserve, they have the right to choose to depart.

Therefore, I believe that the decision to die should be considered a human right. This does not mean we encourage suicide or belittle life; rather, we advocate respecting each individual's perspective and choice regarding life and death. Whether it's due to religious beliefs or the agony of a terminal illness, we should grant them the right to choose their own destiny. This is not just a respect for humanity; it is a respect for human rights. Being centered on humanity means allowing every individual to freely choose their way of living and dying, unhindered by any external factors or restrictions.

Of course,the fact that we have the right to suicide, does not mean that it is always (morally) right to execute that right. It is hard to deny the right of an 85-year-old with terminal cancer of the pancreas and almost no family and friends left, to commit suicide or ask for assisted death. In this case, he or she both has the right, and will be in the right if exercising that right. Compare that with the situation of a 40-year-old man, a husband and father of three young children, who has embezzled company funds and now has to face the music in court. He, also, has the right to commit suicide. But, I would argue, it would not be morally right for him to do so, given the dire consequences for his family. To have a right, does not imply that it is always right to execute that right.
当然,我们拥有自杀权的事实并不意味着执行该权利总是(道德上)正确的。很难否认一个85岁的胰腺癌晚期、几乎没有家人和朋友的老人有自杀或要求安乐死的权利。在这种情况下,他或她都有权利,并且如果行使该权利,他或她就会是正确的。相比之下,一名 40 岁男子的情况是,他是一名丈夫,也是三个孩子的父亲,他挪用了公司资金,现在必须在法庭上接受惩罚。他也有自杀的权利。但是,我认为,考虑到给他的家人带来的可怕后果,他这样做在道德上是不正确的。拥有一项权利并不意味着执行该权利总是正确的。

The question of whether the right to die should be considered one of human rights has been debated for decades, yet there is still no definitive answer. However, in my opinion, the right to die should be regarded as a fundamental human right. Although some people may abuse this right to escape difficulties in life, we should still respect the will of individuals as the subjects of life. We have no right to decide whether we come to this world, but we should have the right to decide when to leave. As Terry Pratchett once said, "If I knew that I could die at any time I wanted, then suddenly every day would be as precious as a million pounds. If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life, my death, my choice."
死亡权是否应该被视为人权之一的问题已经争论了几十年,但仍然没有明确的答案。但我认为,死亡权应该被视为一项基本人权。尽管有些人可能会滥用这项权利来逃避生活的困难,但我们仍然应该尊重作为生命主体的个人的意愿。我们没有权利决定是否来到这个世界,但我们应该有权利决定何时离开。正如特里·普拉切特(Terry Pratchett)曾经说过的:“如果我知道我可以随时死去,那么突然间每一天都像一百万英镑一样珍贵。如果我知道我会死,我就会活着。我的生活,我的死亡, 我的选择。”

Assisted Dying: a history of humanist advocacy for reform


In Support of a Fundamental Right to Die: an argument from personal liberty


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