The Right To Die According To Margaret Somerville

Margaret Somerville has put up an article arguing against euthanasia. She has desperately tried to hide her religious reasons against euthansia but she failed to do so miserably.

She hit the nail on the head when describing euthanasia in modern society.

When personal and societal values were consistent, widely shared and based on shared religion, the case against euthanasia was simple: God commanded “Thou shalt not kill.”

In a secular society based on intense individualism, the case for euthanasia is simple: Individuals have the right to choose the manner, time and place of their death.

In contrast, in such societies the case against euthanasia is complex. It requires arguing that harm to the community trumps individual rights or preferences.

Precisely. When religion ruled the roost, assisted suicide was a big NO but as religion belief was questioned, so were all the issues like abortion and right for women to vote bought out into the limelight and were dealt with. These issues were studied by the modern society and the inescapable conclusion to these issues was : Individual’s rights cannot be infringed. It was a woman’s right to get an abortion. It was a woman’s and a black man’s right to vote. Laws were passed to make sure that the society as a whole understood these rights, as was pointed to her by one of her students.

One student explained that she thought I was giving far too much weight to concerns about how legalizing euthanasia would harm the community and our shared values, especially that of respect for life, and too little to individuals’ rights to autonomy and self-determination, and to euthanasia as a way to relieve people’s suffering.

She emphasized that individuals’ rights have been given priority in contemporary society, and they should also prevail in relation to death. Moreover, legalizing euthanasia was consistent with other changes in society, such as respect for women and access to abortion, she said.

Wow. A student topping her professor. That does not happen often. So what was Margaret`s response?

To respond to such arguments, we need to be able to embed euthanasia in a moral context without resorting to religion — that is, formulate a response that adequately communicates the case against euthanasia from a secular perspective.

That requires, first, countering the belief that individual rights should always prevail — a task I failed at in class.

Exactly. And you have already told us why it is impossible to counter the belief that “individual rights should always prevail”. Because one of the pillars supporting today’s society is INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS.

The right to free speech (even hate speech), the right to have a baby out of marriage, the right to marry a person of any colour and the right to die when you decide it is time. These are all individual decisions and the society as a whole cannot and must not dictate how a person is supposed to live “morally”.

Nothing……absolutely nothing trumps a person’s rights unless his/her actions harms others. Margaret is obviously an educated person so I don’t understand why she does not comprehend this simple fact. This is the reason why she was not able to convince her class that a person is well within his/her rights to decide when it’s time to die. We may question the person’s decision but we must not be allowed to put our moral beliefs ahead of a person’s wishes.

From this point on, she just rambles and does not give any hard facts. She gives her thoughts on the matter and leaves it at that. Here is her closing arguement which illustrates how seeped her arguments are, in religion.

But one of my students responded, “If anything, I think many of our reactions come not from an overexposure to death, but from an aversion to suffering, and an unwillingness or hesitancy to prolong pain.”

Finding convincing responses to the relief-of-suffering argument used to justify euthanasia is difficult in secular societies. In the past, we used religion to give value and meaning to suffering. But, now, suffering is often seen as the greatest evil and of no value, which leads to euthanasia being seen as an appropriate response.

Some answers to the “suffering argument” might include that:

– even apart from religious belief, it’s wrong to kill another human;

– euthanasia would necessarily cause loss of respect for human life;

– it would open up an inevitable slippery slope and set a precedent that would present serious dangers to future generations. Just as our actions could destroy their physical environment, likewise, we could destroy their moral environment. Both environments must be held on trust for them;

– recognizing death as an acceptable way to relieve suffering could influence people contemplating suicide.

As you can see, absolute rubbish. So suffering is preferable to death. Is this not one of the key moral lessons in Christianity?

“Serious dangers to future generations”? How exactly? Margaret never elaborates. And the last para…..

Might the strongest argument against euthanasia, however, relate not to death but to life? That is, the argument that normalizing it would destroy a sense of the unfathomable mystery of life and seriously damage our human spirit, especially our capacity to find meaning in life.

Huh? What the hell does that mean? A person is suffering and wants to die but you want to keep that person alive so that he/she can “explore the unfathomable mystery of life”? People like Margaret Somerville like to moralise the “beauty of life” as long as they are not the ones who are suffering.


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