Americans should not decide on life, death for others

Of all the radical policies advocated by George W. Bush in his four plus years in office, the most overarching has been his focus on the purported evils of the government. From the No Child

Of all the radical policies advocated by George W. Bush in his four plus years in office, the most overarching has been his focus on the purported evils of the government. From the No Child Left Behind Act to his recent push for personal retirement accounts in addition to Social Security, Bush has widely pushed the notion that government, as an entity, cannot be trusted when it comes to your well-being. That is, of course, unless you happen to disagree with Bush on what your well-being actually constitutes, in which case he’ll be glad to tell you.

That translates into don’t bother Dubya with education; leave that to the states so that any blame falls on them. If you have some of those gay people living next door, however, you can count on your president to make sure they never marry and corrupt the sanctity of your three marriages. That also means that Social Security is nothing but an old-fashioned liberal big government ideal that Bush wants no association with. But he’ll be damned if our “culture of life” is broken by allowing impregnated rape victims to have abortions.

Simply put, Bush wants no responsibility for any failed programs being traced back to his tenure. But if he doesn’t agree with your ethics or values system, he’ll force his own morals on you. Lucky us.

And now on the unofficial moral crusade agenda is the heavily embattled right for one to dictate the course of his or her own life, otherwise known as physician-assisted suicide. It is an issue having come to a head over the past month in the seeming completion of the long standing Terry Schiavo case in Florida, along with the Supreme Court’s decision to review Oregon’s practice of this issue.

The arguments for and against physician-assisted suicide are similar to abortion arguments. Proponents claim that it is an intensely personal decision that no third party has the right to infringe upon, while opponents, like Bush and his Religious Right constituents, harken back to the “sanctity of human life.”

Yet, there’s one crucial aspect missing in the argument against physician-assisted suicide that is so prominent when used in opposition to abortion that I often pause when thinking it over. There’s no fetus involved. Gone from the discussion is the impossible question over the “right to life,” essentially slimming the issue down to a man or woman and their personal choice to die.

As written in Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, one must be mentally competent, express this desire in writing, be terminally ill and must take orally prescribed drugs themselves. In addition, the law explicitly prohibits “lethal injection, mercy killing, or active euthanasia.” All this indicates a well thought out system intent upon allowing one to control and ultimately choose his or her own path.

What an essential principle that is, the idea of choice. It is one of the most important principles upon which our nation was founded. Every year, we give thousands of men and women the choice to enlist in the military, a decision in which one chooses to place the welfare of his or her nation above his or her own life, yet we cannot allow that same dignity to those suffering under the yoke of terminal illness? That is not a choice for any of us to make except for ourselves.

Americans feel very entitled in determining life or death for other people and attempt to do so constantly. But neither me nor you nor the government has ever earned the right to tell another person the correct way to live, so how is it that we think we can tell somebody the right way to die?

Noah Potvin can be reached at

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