I am a California Millennial. And on June 9, 2016, I can choose to live or die*.
Physically, my body screams for “Right to die” after five years of suffering from chronic pain. Yet philosophically, my mind is taking me through the necessary consequences of such a principle. We all need to understand the ramifications:
1. Depositing Good Samaritans
We have heard stories of Good Samaritans who rushed to a person’s aid only to be sued later on because of the physical damage done in the process of saving. If people now have “the right to die,” Good Samaritans are going to think more than twice before rushing to help. And in life-threatening instances, there isn’t time for Good Samaritans to jot down a license plate, Google (or however we’re supposed to source) the person’s wishes and then make an informed decision of how to act. What if the person does not want to be saved? What if she does—and yet precious time was wasted looking up her information?
As terror attacks increase within our world, security personnel are having to make hard decisions within split seconds. When there are hundreds to save, police and firefighters do not have time to check each victim’s Advance Directives.
2. Fatalistic vs. Masochistic Philosophy
If I sign the Advance Directives for the least amount of suffering as possible, how is science and medicine to be motivated to discover new treatments? And how am I to ever know if I walk into the office with an “I Give Up” written across my forehead? Has all this medical research been for naught if we all choose to die sooner and more painlessly than to suffer?
Will my end of life care be treated more carelessly or even without care as people wait for me to expire?
I understand my generation’s suicide rate. And I feel for veterans who also end their lives in desperation. In the past, suicide has been classified as illegal and there are counselors willing to help. However, when suffering is seen as “optional,” then those who choose to live while in pain will be seen as masochistic. And caretakers will be less giving when living is seen as optional, and many may be passive aggressively pushed to end their life as a “sacrifice” to free their family members from their care. In addition, my generation’s children who see their parents and grandparents signing Advance Directives—giving up right to life for right to die—will see suicide as a back-pocket option.
3. Must We Give Up on Everything?
We live in a melting pot—but also a potluck—society. Pick and choose. Don’t like your school? Change it. Don’t like your city? Move on. Don’t like your major? Switch. Don’t like your job? Choose another. Don’t like your spouse? Divorce. Don’t like being pregnant? Abort.
As of yet, our individualized society can choose everything except: being born or dying. Who is to say it is better to be born than not to be? Who is to say that living in a dying body is worse than death itself? None of us has had the choice. So that is why it stuns us even now. Because if Fate leaves even our dying day up to our own choice, then we control everything. And that responsibility—that accountability—is frightening.
I have had three near-death experiences and yet I have not died. Is this just chance? Or is there a reason I’ve been left alive? If Fate hasn’t seen fit to put an end-date on my suffering as my chronic condition is debilitating but not deadly, how can I? I who have advocated pressing on, never giving up—if I was to give up now, would not that nullify everything I have said?
Doctors have marveled at my “never give up” attitude—persevering through my undergrad and grad studies. Continuing to reach and set goals. And what of hope? Tens upon tens of doctors have let me down and destroyed my hopes—some have even said I will never get better. And yet I haven’t given up. Why is this?
If a movie is too scary, we can turn it off. We can stop midway through a book if it is too appalling. But is it worth waiting till the final scene for resolution? The final chapter for closure?
Must I argue between me and myself with questions upon more questions and yet no answers?
Is it right to die? Or is it my right to die. To die or not to die. That is now the question.
*Cooper, J. J. & Watson, J. (2016, March 10). Terminally ill California residents will be able to legally end their lives with medication prescribed by a doctor beginning June 9. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2016-03-10/california-right-to-die-law-will-take-effect-in-3-months