Throughout history, the word “death” has always been followed by a period. It marks the end of a life and all too often carries with it a sense of finality that is too much to bare. As the old adage goes, “Tragedy brings out the best and worst in men” and death is the ultimate tragedy. Through war, the rise and fall of dynasties, and disease, which do not play favorites, mankind has come to death in one of two ways: they have either faced it head on, or they have turned tail and fled.
Today, men and women are running, running, into the arms of death. Looking upon it as a final comforter, a convenience, or even a savior; in the forms of assisted suicide, euthanasia, and abortion, the death tolls are rising, and the initial shock is diminishing.
In 1997, the state of Oregon passed the first law making assisted suicide legal in their “death with dignity” policy. Over twenty years later, the number of states to make assisted suicide legal has grown. In seven states it is now legal for doctors to assist a patient in taking his or her own life. Across Europe assisted suicide is widespread and viewed as a treatment for illnesses varying from terminal illnesses, depressive disorders, prolonged autism, and mental instability; but death is not healthcare, and it is not treatment. It is an ending.
So many political and moral debates revolve around the right of choice. Dwelling beneath the surface of the cry of “my body,” or “my life,” is the heart of it all: “my choice.”
It all comes down to the illusion of control. Man longs to be in charge of his own life, even if it can only be in death; but we are not promised the right to death, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As citizens of this country, we have the right to life; we should have the right to help. Pain should never be overlooked; after all, empathy is the chief characteristic which makes us human. Empathy should drive us to help each other through the pain, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional.
While it remains controversial, assisted suicide is no longer considered something to be prevented, but rather something to be provided. In fact, the decision to fight for life is increasingly looked down upon as selfish, while those who succumb to the pressure to choose death are hailed as heroic. It is the death culture.
Recently a New York Times article raised the debate of rational suicide, particularly among the elderly suffering from depression. A National Center for Health study revealed that in the year 2018, one in twelve American adults are struggling with depression. To then say that suicide is rational for those struggling with depression is a reflection of just how twisted our concept of life and death has become.
And yet, there is still a way to create a culture shift. As William L. Watkinson once penned, “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Our culture of death can be stopped by true life-affirming options showing up, in the form of hope.
Organizations like Project Semicolon are embodying this hope even in their choice of symbol. The semicolon is the point at which the author had an opportunity to end the sentence yet decided instead to continue on. Project Semicolon’s mission statement is, “to help reduce the incidents of suicide in the world through connected community and greater access to information and resources.” They believe “suicide prevention is the collective responsibility of each and every person on the planet.”
Life is not a currency and its value should not diminish with the passing of time.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.