On Euthanasia and Assisted Dying

2015-05-06 08:30

According to psychologist Nicholas Wright, nearly everyone enjoys a good murder. I guess that is the reason why there is such curiosity and interest in the fact that a man filed court papers demanding that he be killed by the medical doctors treating him. It is called euthanasia. It is called dying "with dignity." It is also called assisted dying.

The news about this caused me to think about death and dying. More so it enabled me to remember a Book I once read: "I'll Sleep when I'm Dead: The dirty life and times of Warren Zevon".

The Book is about the dirty life of the rock star Warren Zevon. It is written by his ex-wife Crystal Zevon. In writing the Book, Crystal interviewed 87 close friends, lovers and colleagues of Warren, so that the book may not sound like sour grapes annals of a bitter ex-wife.

I was attracted to the book by its sub title, because by then I did not know anything about Warren Zevon. The dirty life?  I asked myself is it not that one should not malign and brow beat the dead, not say any bad thing about the death of a person? According to this book, Warren Zevon lived a dirty life and later died in 2003. He was the friend of Robin Williams who last year in 2014 committed suicide. I have asked myself questions in the manner Robin Williams took his life; by hanging, tying his neck between a door knob and closet knob and pulling. I can think of many ways to kill one’s self that is not gruesome.  So, what was going on in his psyche? Why not go quietly, why this horrendous manner of death? Warren Zevon also had another friend, a comedian John Belushi who died of cocaine overdose. One psychologist pointed out that: Comedians tend to be acutely aware of how meaningless majority of people's existence is. Seeing people living miserable existence comedians try to cheer them up, make them relax and laugh. The conclusions that life is pointless, meaningless and purposeless are the conclusion of existentialist philosophers such as Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Jasper, Heidegger etc. Existentialists accept their perception and try living with the reality of a meaningless life.

Other people respond to their existential awakening and depression with suicide. Suicide is about running away from a perceived problem. So is assisted dying or euthanasia.  Assisted dying or euthanasia seeks to run away from supposed suffering and pain.

The modern times are steeped in Western view of life which is science. Science is about observations and then reasoning out. You observe the person in pain and therefore you seek answers to the pain. And so you conclude: There is no point in the whole suffering human beings are subjected to and therefore we must assist them to die.

To take another's life is the ultimate taboo. I understand what Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi is saying and arguing.

Clearly, suicide and assisted dying are not the right solution to the problem. What seems the right approach to a problem is to understand it and try to solve it, in as much as it can be solved and live with aspects of it that cannot be changed.

Not everything can be reduced to science. I accept science and scientists as long as they talk about improving our physical external existence like doing technology and giving me the internet and similar things. As long they do that they are reasonable. But when they start making finalistic statements about life and the essence of living I stand up and tune them off.

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