Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Right to die: Philosophy as a Belief system

NYT, 13 October 2016: “In the Netherlands, a country vaunted for its liberalism, a proposal to legalize assisted suicide for older people who are generally healthy but feel they have led a full life has stirred up an ethical storm in some quarters.”

The willingness to sacrifice your own life for a Belief – or a Cause – is the ultimate criterion in my concept of the 7 Belief systems (i.e., Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth). It’s also the ultimate stage in my overall concept of Needs-Wants-Beliefs.

Depending on the underlying reason, this self-sacrifice has several labels: eg, crusade, heroism, jihad, losers, suicide, terrorism and (war) victims. In all situations, self-sacrifice is an example of an extreme belief in Philosophy: the perceived right to decide about your own life.

Some decades ago, this right-to-die used to be a personal decision without the assistance of society. Such decisions then often resulted in tragic accidents. Any external assistance in this personal decision could then be viewed as assistance to manslaughter, homicide or murder.

The right-to-die debate in every society is governed by 2 other Belief systems: Politics and Religion. In several countries, the decreasing role of Religion and the increasing role of Politics, has allowed for laws on the external assistance in suicide for terminally ill patients – euthanasia.

Essentially, this right-to-die for terminally ill patients is based on two fundamental concepts: dignity and mercy. Wiki: “Moral, ethical, legal, and political discussions use the concept of dignity to express the idea that a being has an innate right to be valued, respected, and to receive ethical treatment.” Wiki: Mercy is a broad term that refers to benevolence, forgiveness and kindness in a variety of ethical, religious, social and legal contexts.”

The latest development in the decreasing role of Religion and the increasing role of Politics, is the Dutch government’s “right-to-die” proposal for old and healthy people who have lost interest in living (eg, NYT). This proposal may not become law in this or even the next decade, but its mere existence shows that it’s just a matter of time.

In June 2016, I discussed the right-to-die with Joan. A few days before even knowing about her terminal illness, I had written my dignity and mercy blog. During the remaining 3 weeks of her life, she asked me point-blank if I accepted her right-to-die. I acknowledged, without any reservation, because my agreement was rooted in Love, another Belief system.

A legal extension of a “right-to-die” principle beyond terminally ill people is not rooted in universal human emotions like dignity, mercy or love. Perhaps not even in pity. It seems to be rooted in individual human emotions, like lack of hope (part 1, part 2), loneliness (part 1, part 2), and pessimistic future expectations. 

To a large extent, Politics and Religion are balancing powers. The vanishing role of Religion has eroded fundamental forces like faith and hope from our life and lives. In the absence of love (whether parental and/or romantic) then doubt and fear will take over.

Fear has always been our worst advisor.

Wings – Live and Let Die (1973) – artist, IMDb, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2, Wiki-3


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