Short argument against Euthanasia

Here’s a short argument against Euthanasia which I was thinking about yesterday. It seems to me that those who promote Euthanasia often couch their argument in the language of human rights. They argue that people have the right to decide how and when to die, and to exercise their autonomy in this regard. It seems to me, as a preliminary point, that rights always imply duties, and it is incoherent to think that somebody could have a right without somebody having some corresponding obligation.

Now, there are lots of things to be argued in the Euthanasia debate, but here I want to focus in on a relatively neglected point. There are two central questions which we have to ask with relation to human rights.

1) Do people have a right to end their own lives?
2) Do people have the right to demand the help of others in achieving this end?

Notice that if the affirmation of 1) is true, it does not follow that the affirmation of 2) is true, but if the affirmation of 1) is false it does follow that the affirmation of 2) is false. Now, let us say that the most fundamental human right is the right not to be treated as a means to an end instead of an end in oneself. If that were true then it isn’t hard to see how enlisting the help of others in achieving suicide is asking them to treat you as a means to some end (namely the end of ending your suffering). More significantly though, it shows that suicide is wrong for the very same reasons; namely because in committing suicide one is treating themselves as a means to an end instead of an end in themselves (they are treating themselves as a means to the end of ending their suffering). So, quite apart from the absurdity of claiming that suicide is not a social act which harms nobody but the person committing suicide (which is truly absurd), one can demonstrate that insofar as suicide is a violation of the most basic human right of all it cannot be morally legitimate.

Now perhaps somebody will argue that a person has the right to violate their own rights. That is individualism taken to it’s logical extreme. However, not only do we have good reasons to think this kind of individualism is crazy, but the point would make no difference to the Euthanasia debate since, given what has been established, demanding by law that others treat you as a means to an end instead of an end in yourself is asking others to violate your human rights (and even with consent, the argument from human rights for euthanasia must certainly look absurd once cast in this paradoxical light).

One might think there is a problem with claiming the affirmation of 1) prima facia precisely because rights imply duties and it is hard to see what duty a right to suicide would imply. However, one can get out of that by claiming that one has a duty or obligation to exercise their autonomy in self-determination either by deciding to live, or deciding to die.

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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