Ownership of a life is a concept which I find strangely difficult to become familiar with - it's a little like one weak magnet (me) being repelled by another (the concept). Every time I get close up to it, I'm bounced off by a facet of the issue over the left, right, upwards or downwards. For this little monologue I'll do my best to stay on track and remain on topic (that'll be a first, then!).
Two circumstances then: Firstly, a lady in her eighties, faced with a diagnosis of dementia, decides to spare her loved ones the pain and suffering of caring for what she describes (I'm paraphrasing) as a personality-free shell for an untold number of years, secretly plans and carries out her own death (hoping to avoid getting her loving, compassionate, supportive partner into any legal trouble) with her husband at her side. So very sad and resonant for me, since my dear old dad died as a result of dementia and multiple strokes which were related. My heart goes out to the lady's family, and especially those she loved most dearly. Secondly, a mother and father remove their very sick little boy from a hospital in the UK in order to seek out 'controversial' therapy for him. This therapy is already in use in the UK, but only for very specific conditions - although it is more widely used in Europe. Frustrated by this, without the 'permission' of the doctors, they take their little boy to Europe to try to obtain what they hope will be the best care for him. The authorities are alerted and the parents are subsequently arrested in Spain on charges of neglect, based, it would seem, upon the words of the medical profession in the UK (including dire and very specific predictions about the boy's health if he is not immediately returned to that very same hospital). The little boy is, apparently, none the worse for the experience, and the significant trauma that the already troubled family has undergone appears to have been all for nought.
Here's the biggest issue for me;
WHEN DO WE HAND OVER THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR OWN LIVES TO THE STATE OR TO A DOCTOR/TEAM OF DOCTORS? AT WHAT POINT DO 'THEY' SUDDENLY OWN US?
End of life; is there a piece of paper that any of us have ever signed that says that our lives belong to the state? How can the state ever 'own' a life, unless slavery is once again lawful? How is any law which criminalises the act of choosing one's own death - or respecting it and assisting a loved one to carry out such a decision - even remotely the act of a state which purports its citizens to be truly free? WHAT IS THE PRINCIPLE THAT SUCH A LAW DEFENDS? I struggle to think or a rational, realistic one that is not borne of superstition/religion.
Let's be frank; we don't actually NEED any more humans, anywhere - and even if we did (the government of Canada is apparently keen to keep the tax-payers' numbers up), the proportion of the population that a) actually wanted to end their lives in such circumstances and b) wanted to so much that they would find a way to go through with it is unlikely to be anything more than an insignificant murmur in terms of cold, clinical economic output. So, any ideas about protecting the economic value of the workforce is pure fantasy.
Similarly, I can't imagine in my worst nightmares that, should the law upon assisted suicides be relaxed, the population would be thrown into a chaotic orgy of jumping off tall buildings, taking overdoses or sitting in the car with a hosepipe running from the exhaust pipe. Neither do I see an explosion in evil murderers disguised as suicide-assisters. I doubt very much that they would be waiting around for a legal loophole to exploit - there are plenty of unlawful killings already, thanks very much (!).
Assisted voluntary death is lawful in Switzerland, and the last time I looked (I keep Switzerland in a small shoe box under my desk), things are still looking pretty darned good there. No disastrous mass killings, no apocalyptic murder sprees, etc., etc.
The care of the sick: As I mentioned above, the medical profession is a PROFESSION. It is not an arm of the state mechanism. We pay for medical care, but we do not pay the medical profession to take over ownership of our only real asset; ourselves. Occasionally the medical profession will enact certain powers granted to it in order to protect us from violently mentally ill people - such actions not only protect potential victims but also protect the mentally ill from what may turn out to be detrimental actions. I understand that concept and I believe that in a caring, compassionate society, such powers are a necessary 'evil' - among many.
However, if we are sick we do NOT, whether expressly or by inference, give doctors the power of life and death over us - even though it seems that society has come to almost entirely accept that idea. The notion that the people who know what's best for us and our loved ones can ONLY be the medical professionals who have been providing a certain service, is blatantly ridiculous. Even I, with a limited experience of the medical world, have come across a number of dispassionate, self-absorbed, inconsiderate arseholes entirely without empathy and in some cases, skill. Doctors make mistakes and cannot be regarded as infallible any more than I can. Doctors make decisions clinically (or at least, that's what they should do) tempered by the wishes of the patient and/or the wishes of the patient's loved ones. Doctors are paid BY us for service, yet at times some of them seek to control us through some kind of apparently inherited authority. It's not real, and it's time that we woke up to the idea of self-determination and self-ownership of our own bodies.
This overweight, slightly abused and rather poorly-maintained body may make the local GP shake his head and 'tut' disapprovingly, but it belongs to ME, not him. If I've been a fool, if I have set in motion things that I will ultimately regret, then I will pay the price for it, and I don't expect to be lectured by doctors - I expect to be advised and assisted, because that's what they get paid to do. They don't get paid to pretend to be our critical parents, our masters, our consciences. Plus: they are by no means always - in fact not even a healthy majority of the time - correct. That alone is worth remembering when your doctor next attempts to flex their medical muscles.
If ever I suffer from the kind of illness which brings me to a point where I face going on living with pain or something equally debilitating and/or distressing, I will take 100% control of my life and exercise my most basic, most fundamental right of all: the right to choose whether to live or to stop living. Who has the moral or ethical authority to stop me making that choice?
I'll tell ya: Nobody.