Monday, June 6, 2011

On the Value of a Life

In "Dr. Kevorkian's Victims", Ross Douthat initially makes cogent arguments why some see assisted suicide as a way of deciding that dignity in death is just as fundamental a need as dignity in life. Ultimately, however he finds that a society that condones this practice is flawed and for Ludwig Minelli, who performs a function similar to Dr. Kevorikian, in Switzerland, "it should make us proud of our country that he would likely find himself in prison where murderers belong".

It is an uncertain course that Mr. Douthat embarks upon when he talks about life and death determinations. Don't we send our young men and women out into the world each day for the express purpose of finding and killing those who we deem to be our enemies? Haven't we, unlike Switzerland spent most of the 20th century, and almost all of this young 21st century, engaged in one battle after another in which we have decided that some lives are worth saving, while others are disposable commodities? Have we always drawn the right line in making that decision? When we look to Vietnam and Iraq, as but 2 examples, can we as a country be proud of the determinations we made as we brought thousands of our own back in body bags and caused so many lives to be ended prematurely?

The answers are not always clear, nor comfortable. Dr. Kevorkian's intent was not to permit irresponsible and indiscriminate death but to end the pain for those whose most fervent wish was not to suffer further. I would ask Mr. Douthat if our military interventions and the consequences of the same which he has witnessed in his lifetime makes him proud of our country. If we are going to have a discussion about the right to accelerate death, let's go beyond the world of "Dr. Death' to the larger universe where intentionally causing the death of another is but an accepted fact of existence.

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