At a philosophical perspective, we did not choose to come into the world, so we should be able to choose to leave it as we desire. Being forced to participate in a theater that we did not submit to leaves open a host of debate. As you will know, the idea of consent has taken a large portion of media time as of late, albeit for other reasons. How does the concept of life differ from any other concept of consent?
As an atheist, I keep up with regular religious conversations. One might say I like to keep on top of my game. On a particular post on Facebook, I saw a beautiful rebuttal of a Catholic Cardinal condemning Brittany Maynard’s choice to leave her mortal coil. I paraphrase: I am a Christian and I defend Brittany Maynard’s choice to die with dignity. To claim that God desires for us to struggle and suffer is indefensible. Jesus only struggled on the cross for a couple hours, not weeks or months.
And even though I am an atheist, I just thought to myself: Slam-and-Dunk! The argument was so beautifully made and in so few words. As such, I am curious to know Mrs. Maynard’s perspective on faith before her death. In all her interviews she never once alluded to the supernatural. It is possible she did not even give consideration to religious objection (which, according to the US Constitution, should not have any bearing on law anyway).
Though I have mentioned that I do not believe in any deity or supernaturalism, I do not want my stance to be that of one that is in opposition to the majority of the US based on that. Instead, I wish for my perspective to be objective, not subjective. That is, I believe that what one does to one’s own body—so long as it does not infringe on the rights and liberties of another—is of no concern to anyone else but those directly affected. In other words, choosing to end my own life (should I be suffering unduly like Mrs. Maynard was), affects no one else but me. That is not like, for example, me me not being allowed to drive drunk on the roadways — because I could potentially kill or injure those around me, and thus, restrict the rights and liberties of others.
There are two main objections to the death with dignity conversation. The first is religious, and that is not an important conversation since we are ruled as a secular, democratically-elected, constitutional republic, and not a theocracy. That means, unless the rights of minorities are infringed upon, the majority rules. In other words, religious opinion does not matter (based on the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution). The second is the threat (or fear) of euthanasia of those who are unable to consent. However, those voices can be easily silenced if there are laws in place that do not allow for homicide/suicide without clear-of-thought consent.