The right to die

The story of the end of Christian Rossiter has been in the news recently, and serves as another hook into the euthanasia debate. Euthanasia is one of those controversial subjects where the politics seems stubbornly opposed to what people generally regard as sensible.

I’m not unreservedly committed to the right to die. I consider myself a humanist, and as such I regard human life as being as close to sacred as anything can possibly be. However, on balance, in situations where there is no hope and where appropriate couselling is provided and informed consent given, the arguments against the right to die seem rather unconvincing.

One thing that does bother me, in this particular situation, is the following quote from Christian’s lawyer (given in the ABC article above): “Death I suspect comes as quite a relief for Christian.”

Those are rather poorly chosen words. For Christian, death cannot possibly provide relief, or indeed any emotion or physical sensation (unless there’s an afterlife*). Death is the option chosen when relief is unattainable. Relief may be felt by those close to the individual, on account of the end of the suffering, but that’s not quite the same thing.

This is not a happy ending, but merely an ending that could have been worse.

* This ought to be a somewhat redundant qualification. Clearly anything could happen if we suppose the existence of some hitherto unobserved and inexplicable magic.