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The Right to Die – An Argument Against

Since the recent past, Western societies have been facing controversies about the self-determined right to die, or the right of relatives to determine the lives of aging or terminally ill family members.

Both decisions refer to the common denominator of life not being worth to continue because of grave ailment or health issues.  Many times, a key argument in favour is the cost that causes a burden to society to maintain life artificially.
Writing from a German background, and as a Christian, there are a number of reasons to object this rational.
First, Nazi Germany, unfortunately, has had an infamous record of murdering thousands of people “not worth living”, in German so called “unwertes Leben”.  These criteria comprised citizens of all ages and races, but predominantly persons with physical or mental handicaps, or who were terminally ill.  Many children and aging people in foster homes were murdered indiscriminately under the pretence of “keeping the German race pure”.  However, looking back, more likely the reason may have been to prepare the German people for war and to spare the expense of the German health system.
For Christians, another significant aspect is the understanding that life is given by God and not to be taken by humans under any circumstances.  This is as valid against death sentences, as applied by US American courts, as it is for terminally ill people.  (A separate issue may be abortion, which cannot be discussed in this paper.)  The Lutheran Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions, for instance, states “The ‘right to die’ concept is completely foreign to sound biblical ethical principles” and recommends rather to “Care for the Dying”.
As recent court cases document, furthermore an issue against euthanasia – a euphemism for mercy killing – offers many opportunities to relatives or friends of “taking a chance” to terminate the life of people from whom they may inherit.  This may also be true for societies at large, or political power groups, as proven in the case of Nazi Germany.
In conclusion, this essay shows the right to die as a tremendously ambiguous problem for the fabric of a civilised society, since its limitations are difficult to control and it is open for easy exploitation, both individually as well as by politics.
However, there may be rare cases of definite consent by patients affected, that relatives and medicine may want to end life by mercy killing because of a prolonged, technical supported life, i.e. a “living vegetable”.  For this reason only, legislation should provide clear regulation under stringent restricted conditions.

(Written in September 2007 for a TAFE ESL course)
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