Suicide has been seen by different cultures in extremely different ways, everyone knows that.
Some of them admitted it generally or in specific circumstances, without posing particular problems.
For the Stoics, it was one of the normal ways to put an end to life and its application was theorized, for example, at the height of joy, on reaching the apex of satisfaction.
The Greek epic is full of heroic suicides, not to mention the Japanese culture, where it is (was) almost mandatory in certain circumstances, to mend a fault and to achieve rehabilitation.
The Romans called it a noble gesture, in some cases it was almost required; in fact, it was considered preferable to die rather than submit to certain humiliating situations and conditions. Well-known and celebrated as a fact of heroism is the tale of father and son who, being prisoners of the enemy and forced to duel one against the other in order to save one of their lives, they preferred to each take their own life.
But even the Christian culture has not always been hostile to it, it has not always been seen as an “ontological and perverse ingratitude towards the gift of life given by God the Father”.
The Christians were prone to sacrifice and to be killed (it is not a suicide, but it could look like it somehow) rather than bend and give up what they believed in.
In literature, I always love to remember the figure of Cato of Utica that the medieval Christian Dante puts as guard (holy) of Mount Purgatory, although he opened his gut in Utica after the triumph of Caesar and the permanent loss of republican liberty. He was seen as a man of integrity and certainly not as a coward.
The simple assimilation of suicide to cowardice, or perceive to kill oneself always and only as a unworthy behavior, debasing human dignity, is a recent attitude (and obsession) for the most. And even a superficial one, if I may say.
I do not think that this point of view (today’s view) really describes the reality, but everyone may think as they like. On this I do not argue! If someone feels more worthy of the rational choice to shorten the inevitable suffering, to enjoy it all to the end, perhaps hoping for a miracle, he has every opportunity to do so. As I have the chance to disagree.
On which I want to discuss instead and battle, in theoretical terms, is the reason why I cannot see my point of view recognized by the law. I want to be granted to people the right to ask for a painless end to life. In practical terms, I object to the fact that the beliefs of others, more irrational by the way, binds me, it should not be so!
I say so because hostility toward suicide only has religious roots. Since, in our juridical systems (EU, US) you can not admit that the religious beliefs of someone must be recognized by a secular state, for the sake of appearances, we often hear about “opportunity reasons” (it means: a practical argument is used) against the opening of law to admit suicide: if you grant this freedom (to commit suicide, with help), where will it end?
Well, I mean: this argument is simply pathetic! A freedom is allowed because it is right and just (perceived as such) to recognize it, or it is not granted for opposite reasons. The fears for extreme consequences always appear to be as an excuse, an alibi, it tastes like cowardice, masquerading as common sense, a shorthand for not thinking, a convenient choice set up not to change anything.
You could have done the same thing every time you had been taken to a new openness in terms of freedom (and, well, people did it, with ridiculous results, if we look at history with today’s mentality): if women will vote, where would we end up? If everybody will be literate, where would we end up? If the streets will be filled with cars…? If gays will be allowed to get married, where would we end up? … In the future! That’s for sure! That is always better than the past!
So in the end, you just have to answer a clear question and accept the consequences that follow with it. As in all other cases, in fact, even here there is a clear question to be placed from which to extract a consequence. In the past and for example: is the woman inferior to man in some aspect? No! So why could they not vote and be elected?
In this case, the question to ask is: who owns the body (and its life)?
The law (with differences between systems, but none of ours permit to ask for suicide) says that the person is not completely free in auto determination, that is as to say that one person does not belong completely to himself: the individual who “inhabits” (more correctly it is! The body).
Ok, but then who owns the part out of self control and determination? If the subject himself is unable to decide on it, who can?
The question can be answered in many ways, but all eventually converge just on one single conclusion: the body of each belongs not to ourselves, but to other human beings! And now that we formulated this first conclusion: it is reasonable?
It is not the human being directly implicated in the problem who has power over his own body, but other beings, humans beings like him, but external. Bah!
Why do I say that simply “other human beings” can decide over the body of each one of us, whatever will be the answer given to the earlier posed question? Who owns life? Who owns the body?
It is common to respond to those questions in two main ways: the body (life) belongs to the State, or the body belongs to God.
Both answers are only indirect, however, because “the State” and “God”, at the end, are embodied by specific human individuals, flesh and blood made, who interpret “the will,” the “rules”, or apply policies and laws: they administer States and God’s will.
So on your, his, my body a judge, a doctor, a clergyman, or a group of them can decide. And not each one of the us individually.
Who dares to say that that would be less dangerous and better, than to give everyone the full and complete domain over his body!? Why?
What would happen if everyone will decide for himself at the end? Nothing! That is what it will happen? I am quite sure to say it!
In theory, this weird situation is conceived as a manner to protect the individual from himself. We know that the “good parent” the State, or even the Church, wants to keep us (their beloved children) safe and not do make choices we could repent about.
This “paternalistic” attitude is not just out of time, but also hypocritical and false. Both the State and the Church authorities, in fact, want to maintain this control only for the sake of power. It gives rise to suspicion.
As well as in this case, it would be possible to prohibit, for example, the road traffic, considering the fact that some drivers will necessarily provoke, sooner or later, the death of themselves or others, using their vehicles. Here, too, you risk your skin! Yet you make other choices, for example, checking for drunk drivers, or granting a license, I mean: society organizes itself in order to encourage and enable rapid displacements.
Let’s be positive: they prohibit the possibility to ask for suicide in the hospital because they want to protect you from yourself! But let us not be too naive and continue with a bit harsh but effective objection: who can assure me that the person who should protect me from myself (and decide for me) is actually better minded and wiser than me? That he would know my interests better than I can? Who can assure me that he knows and understands perfectly my problems?
Let’s look at the reality: do the others care, in general, about me and what I do? Do they worry constantly about me, for every problem in my life? Do they find me a job if I do not have one, do they give me a hug in a difficult time, do they procure a house for me? Or even, do they prevent me from getting fat? No! At the most I am milked by them! And that’s it!
So why when it comes to decide about end of my life they feel so interested in me and they want so much for me to stay alive? And perhaps even with a tumor in the brain? For three or four months, a year more! Do I really want to believe that the reason for this concern and opposition to my suicide is my “my own protection”? It’s ridiculous to think so, insane! This scenario provokes in me the hilarious thought of people who do not know me and I do not know, that cannot tolerate my absence in this world! “Why do you already want to go?” “We get offended!”
If the reason why I cannot suicide freely and officially in a public or private structure (without suffering) is not “my own protection”, then it must be the protection of others; of course there must be something to protect if you do not want to admit that behind all this there is just a sinister and illegitimate bad power play (suspected above).
It must therefore be “the protection of all other citizens” (society) that has to be discouraged, educated, addressed not to imitate a behavior that someone could take with the right importance, but that the majority could take in a superficial way (such as driving cars ).
This would mean, though, that is not granted to me (but it is not even recognized in theory, so far) a legitimate right, once again, for the aforementioned fear of the bad consequences (what if…) But then, if it is so, they are treating me as a tool! They are using me! I am used to save other people, and perhaps then others could be used to save others, and so on.
Would it not be unethical to use a person for such a purpose? If you put the prohibition in these terms: ethics!
Something that would be right to grant is denied… “but for a good cause” someone may say. …Excuse me, but … when did I agree to this? If it is ok to act so… then… why not allow medical experimentation without my consent as well? To save future lives…
Well, this result is worse than the risk they want to avoid! Because once again, who decides on how to deny or compress a legitimate right, in order to protect others? Other human beings! Of course! And can I trust their criteria? And above all, when was it decided? Who decided to take this line? Where is it written?
If one right has to be granted, it must also be granted to exercise it! Or, if a right (something that I think I have right to do and in fact I ask) is denied, it needs to be explained to me, well and convincingly, why that right is denied! The fact that there are believers of a particular religion who are opposed to it, is not a valid reason, but for now it seems the only one conceivable: life does not belong to you, it belongs to God.
I want it to be explained to me why (me and everyone else) we are not lords and masters of our own body and life, but the lords and masters are the State, or God, and specifically their earthly representatives, that is: other human beings.