A couple of news articles this week have caught my attention and raise the issues about what choice we have over our own bodies.
Earlier this week permission was granted for Tony Nicklinson to present his right to die case to a full hearing. The man has locked in syndrome, which paralyses the body and prevents speech but leaves the patient fully aware. He says (via an electronic board or other devices) that this makes his life intolerable and wants to be able to have a doctor help him to end his life without fear of prosecution. This is slightly different from assisted suicide cases as Tony is unable to take the medication himself, it would have to be administered.
I can see why the courts have to be careful in this case as precedent may be set while crossing the legal boundary of murder. But at the same time, I do not see what right anyone has to dictate to another person what they should do with their life and body. The stigma against suicide has a religious background, with the idea that only god has the right to decide who lives and dies, and only became entangled in English law in the Middle Ages. Regardless of belief systems, no one has more right to decide than the person whose life is being debated, not even close relatives. It is thus a distressing concept that the courts and judges have more decision power than the individuals concerned, especially when it comes down to a case such as this one, where suffering prevents the individual having a reasonable quality of life.
We put animals down when they are suffering. It is the merciful thing to do. Unfortunately, we cannot ask their permission as the time. In the case of humans we can ask the individual concerned and gain their input. Of course, it would need to be established that no coercion has occurred and that the individual is making the choice willingly, with full awareness of the consequences. I rather think that one of the reasons that the right to ask someone else to end your life has not yet been properly addressed has more to do with emotions and the stigma society has of death, rather than logical reasons. Death is painful for those left behind and natural death can also be painful for the person dying. But situations and medical conditions can result in a great deal more suffering than is necessary or can be tolerated. It is about time these issues are debated in a more reasoned manner and I think the hearing is yet another step along the path of gaining more legal rights about our own life choices.
Speaking of rights, what about female abortion rights? A rather harrowing article was published this week and can be read here (http://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/the-right-not-to-know ). It tells the story of a couple in Texas who get the worst news possible, that their pregnancy would result in a child who would have a very low quality of life until it died, if the pregnancy even made it to term. They made the difficult decision to have an abortion. The couple were then subjected to a harrowing ordeal due to recently imposed state laws. I will let you read the details for yourself, but it is quite heart-breaking. It seems that some of it could have been avoided had the law not been so confusing and arbitrary, but most women seeking abortion in Texas will have to go through this unless the law is overturned. Another example of legal entities dictating what someone does with their own body. While not outlawing abortion directly (although some people would like to see that happen) a lot of emotional blackmail and pressure is used to coerce women to keep the child, regardless of her feelings on the matter. IT IS HER BODY. Only she gets to decide and she should be able to do it without undergoing deliberately imposed emotional trauma.
I really hope one day that things will change to accommodate individual desires in these circumstances, whether it is in sexual preference, right to die choice, abortion, consensual BDSM, food/alcohol/drug consumption etc. But I suspect that there will be more legislation before that happens and meanwhile our individual freedom is simply a veneer masking the fact that our lives are only our own until personal choice clashes with the dictates of society. As usual, society is slow in adjusting to the demands of modern technology and life, which have resulted in these questions arising. I personally do not want to suffer needlessly at the end of my life, nor do I want doctors bullying me into changing my mind once I have made a decision. Thankfully I do not have to address those concerns yet; however, that does not mean that they lack relevancy. These are cases that all humans should pay attention to, be informed of and ultimately decide for themselves. Do we want the choice or are we happy to let others make these decisions on our behalf?
Skeptical kinkster musing on whatever takes my fancy!