Sunday, December 18, 2005

This Way To Exit

Assisted suicide for terminally ill patients has been legal in Switzerland for some time, but up until now, those who wished to die had to leave hospital premises to do so. Now, a Lausanne hospital has taken a major step forward in preserving the patients' dignity by allowing assisted suicides on its grounds.

In the U.S., a lot of attention is paid to how we enter this world -- and our right to do so. The pro-choice/anti-choice battle wages on, and realizing the undeniable religious foundations of this country, it is hard to envision a time when there will not be political, social and moral tensions surrounding the abortion issue.

But there is too little focus on how we leave this world -- and our right to do so. The rights of the individual are respected, but only to a certain point. We are trusted to make decisions about whether to have children and how many, whether to smoke or not, whether to have elective surgery or not, whether to own a gun or not, whether to vote or not, whether to love or not... but not whether to die or not.

Perhaps our biological survival instincts makes it rightfully so; in a sense, we live to be and stay alive. But is that a be-all-and-end-all argument against euthanasia? After all, some animals realize that death is nigh, and hide away from all help and sustenance, speeding up the final moments.

So how about if we spend some time considering our intellectual instincts instead? Let us explore our abilities to reason, to feel, to live our lives intentionally versus haphazardly. To allow ourselves and our loved ones to leave this world the same way we had tried our best to live in it -- with dignity, respect and compassion.