Suicide is the most difficult thing to judge in philosophy and other branches of ethics. It has hitherto paused difficult questions that get different answers from different individuals. These individuals can be philosophers from different times, different places, and traditions. It is further fascinating that that those of the same eras, same traditions, and even same places arrive at different answers on this very topic. Our focus is to analyze the attitude of patients towards mechanically ventilated chemotherapy. This treatment is given to patients that have different conditions that lead to difficulty in breathing, or have problems with their circulatory systems.
We also know that such victims usually suffer from terminal illnesses. Some of them may refuse to have life saving treatment, probably because they know their fate. They may also refuse to have it because of the complexity of such treatment. In this essay, we will talk about the views on suicide in general, as we relate them to this condition.
There have been several arguments that suicide is unethical and is immoral. The most known reason is that many of the people who take suicide as an option give reasons such as economic hardship, emotional pain and depression. These aspects can be temporary and can be ameliorated by changing some things in somebody’s life. An adage that commonly surrounds several comprehensive writings concerning suicide is that suicide is a lasting solution to passing problems. It is sarcastic in such a way that it is not aimed at ending permanent problems but those that are temporary. We also know that not all suicide cases were because of temporary problems but because of problems that do have solution. The people that have such problems clearly know that their end is death. The argument that is against the point that problems are transitory clearly points out that not all of them are. In some cases, the problems may be extremely painful. The same problems may also be irresolvable. This is even after counseling or lifestyle change. It also depends on how severe the pain is and to what extent is the person suffering from affliction. The examples of these are incurable illnesses and lasting mental sickness.
In reference to our case, where a patient has refused to take live saving treatment, the patient might have hard an absurd view of life. The patient mighty have gone through such a condition for such a long time that he or she has lucked meaning in life. The philosophy of the absurd concludes that the entire effort of people to find significance in life ends up failing. This is for the reason that such meaning is inexistent. The “absurd” is a clash between human hunt of meaning and their incapability to find it anyway. We should not confuse this with logical impossibility, it is rather humanly impossible.
The absurd comes from the discord between an individual’s hunt for meaning and the apparent meaninglessness of the universe. As people look for sense in senseless world, they have three ways to resolve the matter. This is according to Kierkegaard & Hannay, (1989). This ways are as follows: suicide, which is escaping the reality of existence. Kierkegaard & Hannay dismisses this option. The other way is to believe in the transcendent being in religion. One believes in being of reality beyond absurdity in this solution. This would require a non-rational or it could be necessary to have religious acceptance in such an empirically un-provable or intangible aspect. Some philosophers have regarded this as philosophical suicide. The last one is the acceptance of the absurd. This is where on accepts the situation and lives on as though it was not there. We can also say that they live and go one with life in spite of the trouble. A patient who has chosen not to have life saving treatment may have chosen the first option. We are careful to use the word “may” because we are still exploring the topic to see if the patient is justified to do so.
According to the Christians, suicide remains a taboo. In heavier words, it is a sin. It is considered as sin that has three dimensions. First it is a sin against self, then against your neighbors and finally against God. There are three succinct arguments that show why suicide is a sin in the above three dimensions. This is as put forward by Thomas Aquinas. It is against nature as every living thing has an inborn desire for preserving life. This is what makes anyone who wants to destroy it whether his or her own, be criminal in such a case. The second thing is that such an act is contrary to someone’s social obligation. It is right for everyone in a social setting to take care of him, or herself, for he is an integral part of that society. This is because the self-killing not only injures the closest people, but all human community. The third point is that it is a big violation of God’s way life. It is contrary to Christians’ religious right. It is believed that God alone is the one to decide the time a person should live or die. God has the right to determine the end of life, because it is God who knows the purpose for which created it. It is absolutely his will to lead it.
On reflecting on the above argument, it seems the person who refuses to let his life be saved in mechanically ventilated chemotherapy takes away his or her life. The reason is that he has determined the time of his or her death, by bringing it sooner.
The question that we still ask ourselves is if one has a right to death. In many societies all over the world, it has become very common that people ask for whatever they want in terms of a right they have. Over the past few decades, there have been claims for the right to health care or health, education and employment. People have also come up with demands for a right to privacy. This embraces a right to commit suicide, sodomy, to enjoy pornography and to abort. There are numerous bills of rights. More are such as a right to clean air, and a right to birth. These rights claims have been advancing from what is understandable to what is annoyingly amazing. To have a right not to have been born finally gets to the claim of a right to die. It is still a big question, which people contend over seriously. For those who are pro-life, life is precious and people need to hold on to it. In the essay, “is there a right to die?” Kass (n.d) says:
This claim has surfaced in the context of changed circumstances and burgeoning concerns regarding the end of life. Thanks in part to the power of medicine to preserve and prolong life, many of us are fated to end our once-flourishing lives in years of debility, dependence, and disgrace. Thanks to the respirator and other powerful technologies that can, all by themselves, hold comatose and other severely debilitated patients on this side of the line between life and death, many who would be dead are alive only because of sustained mechanical intervention. Of the 2.2 million annual deaths in the United States, 80 percent occur in health care facilities; in roughly 1.5 million of these cases, death is preceded by some explicit decision about stopping or not starting medical treatment. Thus, death in America is not only medically managed, but its timing is also increasingly subject to deliberate choice. It is from this background that the claims of a right to die emerge (Kass, ¶ 3).
Kansas is one of those that strictly see life as precious and that no one should take it away. In the above quote, it is clear that he sees it good that lives need to be kept for a little longer. Most of these people will dismiss any argument that will try to propose the ending of life for any reason even if a condition demands so. By practical wisdom, it is hard to figure out if it is humanly good or morally right to commit suicide. In most heartrending terminations of life, we find that our wisdom is intransigent with the right to die, whether legal or moral. In such a case, we see that such a patient who refuses to take the life saving treatment as has committed suicide. According to this argument, such a patient should give in to live saving treatment rather than refuse it and die. Kass (n.d) further says, “And, on both philosophical and legal grounds, I am inclined to believe that there can be no such thing as a right to die--that the notion is groundless and perhaps even logically incoherent” (Kass (n.d)). In the very intense argument of trying to make the right to die something popular and legal, people in some places have voted. Despite the efforts of the proponents of the right to die, it has not succeeded. Opinion polls show that most people would take the option of terminating life at miserable situations. This can still not pass because the principles of how this should be done are not laid down clearly.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau takes this same direction. He admits that this is a very difficult question. Reaching the right answer is a big puzzle. To Rousseau people have stated the question wrongly, and that is the reason why it becomes difficult to answer. To ask if someone has the right to dispose his or her own life is not right. This is in the same group of such statements as; people have a right to risk there lives in order to save them. Such questions are always hard to justify.
Rousseau also questions the fact that people easily would preserve their lives in the expense of other peoples’ lives. This is highly unfair because they too cannot release their own life for others. If that is not so, then it puts more doubt to the validity of the right to die. It is further hard to judge the right for the government to take away its citizens’ life. In his argument, he attaches high value to life. This is why he questions the right of an authority to take away somebody’s life. The state has made people’s life a gift the people have. It is as though they received it from the state with tough conditions. Without following these conditions, the state then has the right to take this life. His argument insinuates that the state is assuming the position of the creator. No such a person is required to take away what he dint make. The statement that shows this very clearly is when he said that any one who wills the end wills the means also. At the point of willing the end, one must have initiated something. No human being initiated the process of life. No one is therefore justified of taking it away for any reason or by any means.
Rousseau affirms that the state does not have the right to kill one who can be kept alive without danger. In this case, he is against such capital punishments. As he concludes, Rousseau, (1762) says:
The right of pardoning or exempting the guilty from a penalty imposed by the law and pronounced by the judge belongs only to the authority which is superior to both judge and law, i.e., the Sovereign; each its right in this matter is far from clear, and the cases for exercising it are extremely rare. In a well-governed State, there are few punishments, not because there are many pardons, but because criminals are rare; it is when a State is in decay that the multitude of crimes is a guarantee of impunity. Under the Roman Republic, neither the Senate nor the Consuls ever attempted to pardon; even the people never did so, though it sometimes revoked its own decision. Frequent pardons mean that crime will soon need them no longer, and no one can help seeing whither that leads. But I feel my heart protesting and restraining my pen; let us leave these questions to the just man who has never offended, and would himself stand in no need of pardon (Rousseau, ¶ 28).
In all, he is implying that the power to take away somebody’s life is in the hands of the Sovereign. That statement insinuates the creator, or God, for he nullifies both the judge and the law. This two stands in perfectly for the state, which he has earlier on put to question. If that is his value for life, he does not need to explain many more conditions under which people take away lives. Judging our case from his point of view, we conclude that the patient who refuses to take life saving mechanically ventilated chemotherapy kills himself.
We also need to look at the whole issue from the liberal point of view. Why would one have the right to die? When would this person be suited to take away his lifes for that particular reason? In this, we will start reasoning as people who believe in a rational self-interest. According to this, we will embrace things such as equality within the law, having limited governance by the state, having right to own property, having civil rights and natural rights such as what we are discussing – right to die. This liberalism puts overall sovereignty in an individual. In this case, an individual has full rights to determine the destiny of his life at any time and at any circumstance. In liberalism, everybody’s rights are natural, innate, or unassailable, and are present independently of the state.
The system of thought holds it very clearly; that liberty is when somebody’s action is not obstructed by any other person, so longs it is in accord with the equal rights with others. Their proponents are always careful to mention that the action should not be inside the limits of law. The greatest reason is that they consider law as a tyrant’s will. They do not consider it completely when it violets the rights of an individual. In the rights that require other individuals for example the state to refrain the liberty of an individual are negative rights. As we look at this argument, we have drifted from the idea that the person who decides not to take life saving mechanical ventilated chemotherapy commits suicide.
John Stuart Mill is one such person who champions for the right of the individual. When it comes to the very hard issue of someone disposing oneself in any situation for any reason, he slightly says that an individual should not be allowed such a right because at the end of it all the individual denies himself the freedom that he had before disposing off him or herself. In his book, On Liberty, Mill (2005) writes:
Not only persons are not held to engagements which violate the rights of third parties, but it is sometimes considered a sufficient reason for releasing them from an engagement, that it is injurious to themselves. In this and most other civilized countries, for example, an engagement by which a person should sell himself, or allow himself to be sold, as a slave, would be null and void; neither enforced by law nor by opinion. The ground for thus limiting his power of voluntarily disposing of his own lot in life, is apparent, and is very clearly seen in this extreme case. The reason for not interfering, unless for the sake of others, with a person's voluntary acts, is consideration for his liberty. His voluntary choice is evidence that what he so chooses is desirable, or at the least endurable, to him, and his good is on the whole best provided for by allowing him to take his own means of pursuing it. But by selling himself for a slave, he abdicates his liberty; he forgoes any future use of it, beyond that single act. He therefore defeats, in his own case, the very purpose which is the justification of allowing him to dispose of himself. He is no longer free; but is thenceforth in a position which has no longer the presumption in its favor, that would be afforded by his voluntarily remaining in it. The principle of freedom cannot require that he should be free not to be free. It is not freedom, to be allowed to alienate his freedom (Mill, p 67)
He does not diminish his view on liberty just that way, but goes on to say that the individual is the best caretaker of his or her own interests. He ultimately paints this picture by using an example of a man who is about to cross a dilapidated bridge. He reasons that we should not force him not to go ahead to cross the bridge, to prevent him from the ensuing danger. He argues that the person himself understands the worth of his life relative to the risk of crossing the broken bridge.
In this case, our patient knows the worth of his or her life balanced against the danger of refusing to take the treatment. The patient has a right and a freedom to decide depending on what he or she feels about his or her worth. In his conclusion about Euthanasia, Goldberg (n.d) supports it for a reason such as intense suffering due to terminal diseases. He says:
For me, as a specialist in geriatric medicine, the most worrisome aspect of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia is raised by Alzheimer's disease. Though not immediately fatal or painful, this mind-robbing condition is one that people greatly fear because it gradually obliterates the memory, personality, indeed the very self. When people find out they have this disease, if they are still mentally intact enough to understand the implications, they sometimes wish to end their life before the loss, indignity, and burden becomes too much for themselves or their families to bear (Goldberg, ¶ 35).
He advocates for such, because such diseases rob the mind of individuals by gradually obliterating their memories, personality and the very core of their lives. Therefore, as many people in America and Britain think, in such cases, assisted suicide is essential. That information is from statistics of opinion polls. The people have not embraced the matter fully in either of these countries because there are no clear procedures for such.
Conditions that cause a person to go through such treatments as mechanical ventilation chemotherapy are traumatizing terminal disease. This is why perhaps a person would refuse the treatment to die faster. From the argument above, this person would have acted in his own volition to save himself from the taunting type of treatment and long-suffering from the disease. This would not be suicide.
As a conclusion, we would still appeal to our conscience. What is left in the people who allowed the death to happen is that they might have done something wrong, even if they are sure that the patient would eventually die. Therefore, as many have stated, the power to take away life lies in the hands of Him who initiated it. I make this conclusion because even Mill would not justify completely that in would be right for one to dispose of his life. In that, he says the person would have taken away the freedom, which he or she had before.