Last week campaigners went to court, man, they didn’t wanna go on living. They asked the judges, “Please”, but they still said, “No”. Man, being terminally ill and/or paralysed is such a drag! And now the court has thrown out the best case the campaigners had. But they shouldn’t fight… for the “right… to die”. Rather, they should fight for the freedom to voluntarily enter into contracts.
Just like the right to party, the right to die is constantly being fought for. And just like the right to party, the right to die is ridiculous, unjust, and illiberal. Sadly, there is a good deal of support for it, and the typical objections (pressure being put on those who feel they are a burden on their relations; thin end of the wedge/slippery slope arguments; the innate value/sanctity of human life) while not being completely without merit, do completely miss the point.
A while back the phrase “rights imply responsibilities” (or variations on it) became commonplace. However, this perfectly good cliché was taken, by Right-wingers especially, to mean that if you – meaning, presumably, foreigners, layabouts and ragamuffins – want to be treated decently then you must “play by the rules”. But this is far too vague. Rights and responsibilities (better, obligations or duties) are two terms describing the same relation: if I have the right to do X, you have the responsibility not to interfere with my doing X; or if I am unable to perform X by myself someone must do it for me.
Put simply, if I have the “right to die” and am unwilling or unable to kill myself, someone must kill me, and, should that person be unwilling to do me in, they must be forced to kill me. The “right to die” means the “obligation to kill”. But where does such an obligation come from? There is no contract between me and literally everyone else that says at least one of you must kill me if I so wish – and, if there is a “right to die”, everyone must have just such a contract with literally everyone else.
Obviously sympathy goes a long way towards explaining the popularity of “the right to die”. No one likes to see people suffer for years with illness when they would rather just get it over and done with. And, undoubtedly, opposing the “right to die” will seem, to some at least, incredibly heartless. Fortunately there is a solution which is both humane and distinctively human: let people contract to be killed. Repeal the stupid law against suicide. If a man wants to kill himself, let him kill himself – whose business is it but his? And if he cannot kill himself, for whatever reason, let him arrange with another to kill him on a contractual basis. Money need not change hands, an agreement is enough. Let wives put pillows over their husbands faces if they both agree this is what they want; let friends help their friends die; let doctors give their patients a peaceful death. Just don’t, whatever you do, call for the State to give itself the power to force people to kill one another.