Monday, January 17, 2011

A Suicide Booth on Every Corner?

Over at Secondhand Smoke, Wesley Smith put up a post about a man named Martin Amis (who I don’t believe I’ve heard of before) who has advocated for Suicide Booths on every street corner, and more recently has criticized the Sanctity of Life ethos as being ‘primitive’. I take great offence to that statement. I fully agree with Wesley that Sanctity of Life is the very basis for Universal Human Rights. Sanctity of Life means that a homeless man has the same right to his life as the President of the United States. The problem with the ‘quality of life’ ethic is its obvious implication that some lives are more valuable than others, making it perfectly rational to exploit those on the lower rungs. This has happened before, with slavery. Even well into the twentieth century, black people were casually dehumanized, treated as a mere resource, and subjected to horrific abuses. This is what happens when the Sanctity of Human Life is not respected, and it’s what Martin Amis would have us return to. I’ve said before that Dehumanization leads to horrible atrocities, and history makes that irrefutable. That is why Sanctity of Life is neither primitive nor disposable.

There is an inherent, and I think obvious, hypocrisy in promoting suicide. If suicide’s such a good idea, then why are you still sucking down oxygen? Martin Amis, and those like him, are advocating that other people should be euthanized, people of lesser value then themselves. Though they claim that this is out of compassion for the sick and infirmed, they too often fail to hide their contempt for the disabled, who they perceive as having less of a right to live then they do. To demonstrate this point, here’s a quote from Martin Amis I found on the Wikipedia entry for Suicide Booth. ""There’ll be a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops...There should be a booth on every corner where you could get a Martini and a medal"  Note his contempt for the elderly, as he himself is sixty one. This type of utility ethic is doubly hypocritically since it’s really a form of collectivism, which all these post-Christian, post-modern douchebags claim to despise. To claim that a person’s only value is their value to others is anathema to the individualism our modern society claims to value so highly. Nobody, nobody, has any right to tell someone else that their life is not worth living. In the brief article, Amis’s suicide advocacy seems to be based on the fact that modern medicine has significantly increased the average lifespan without substantially increasing health span, resulting in many people’s winter years being ones of dotage. Granted, that does kind of suck, but medical science will not neglect this problem much longer. I am optimistic that by the time I’m an old man, there will be advanced medicines to ease the burdens of old age and push the average life span at least to a hundred, if not longer. Suicide Booths are not the answer people!

As for Suicide Booths on every corner? Bad idea. Why? First of all, there is a thin line between individualism and narcissism. You don’t have the right to do anything you want because your actions affect other people. If you were to kill yourself, that would no doubt cause a significant amount of emotional suffering to your closest family and friends, and also possibly impose them with financial burdens as well. I would also argue that governments have an obligation to protect all their citizens from harm, including self harm, especially if they are not in their right state of mind. Most physically healthy people who want to commit suicide suffer from depression, and are therefore not mentally competent to make such a choice. They should instead be treated for depression. Though I’ve never been diagnosed with clinical depression, I consider myself to have been fairly depressed during my late tweens and early teens. I do not want to demean the suffering of people who do have clinical depression, and maybe I was just a normal mopey teenager. The point is that there was a time when I gave more than a passing thought to killing myself, and now I am very glad I never attempted such a thing. But, if there had been Suicide Booths on every corner or Suicide pills in every pharmacy, maybe I wouldn’t be here today. I’m sure there are many people who have suffered from depression that share this sentiment. So assisted suicide should not be available to the underage or those who are mentally incapacitated in any form. I’m not going to go so far as to say there’s no such thing as rational suicide, but I wouldn’t call myself pro-suicide since I believe it’s a slippery slope to using euthanasia for ‘cleansing undesirables’.

Finally, Suicide Booths would be a magnet for lawsuits. What if someone walked into one thinking it was a phone booth, like Fry did on the Futurama pilot? Plus, at twenty five cents a pop, I don’t see how they could possibly be profitable.

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