post from The Francis "Hussein" L. Holland Blog
on 08 July 2008 07:05:00 AM. © The Francis "Hussein" L. Holland Blog
Last year, the Supreme Court of Switzerland (decision available in French or Italian or German) ruled that people with extreme and irremediable mental suffering have the same right to commit suicide as people with extreme and irremediable physical suffering. According to the Associated Press:
LAUSANNE, Switzerland: A ruling by Switzerland's highest court has opened the possibility that people with serious mental illnesses could be helped by doctors to take their own lives.
Switzerland already allows physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients under certain circumstances but the Federal Tribunal's decision, which was released on Friday, puts mental illnesses on the same level as physical ones.
"It must be recognized that an incurable, permanent, serious mental disorder can cause similar suffering as a physical (disorder), making life appear unbearable to the patient in the long term," the ruling says. International Herald Tribune
( . . . )
The case was brought by a 53-year old man with serious bipolar affective disorder, who asked the tribunal to allow him to acquire a lethal dose of pentobarbital without a doctor's prescription.
The tribunal ruled against his request, confirming the need for a thorough medical assessment of the patient's condition, which a prescription would confirm.
Here in the United States, as well as in Great Britain and France, suicide is still a taboo subject, and those who commit suicide are called the worst names, including "cowardly", "selfish" and "weak." Those who desire to commit suicide are warned that they will burn in hell if they die "before their time", which time will inevitably come sooner or later anyway. They are cautioned that God will be offended if they take into their own hands the job of ending life because God sees fit to end their suffering.
So, which is it? Should Americans have a right to end their lives when their lives become intolerable to them, due to physical or mental illnesses, or should we be obliged to live on at the mercy of our own bodies' and/or minds' capacities to torment us, for so long as the body and the beating heart can continue to do so? Here's a paper
(in French) that considers many aspects of considerations and attitudes toward the question. It's a good conversation starter.www.ethikrat.org/_francais/publications/pdf/Avis_Autodetermination_et_assistance_en_fin_de_vie.pdf
It seems to me that, just as we have found ways to extend life in manners that "God" would never have imagined or perhaps condoned, we have also found ways to shorten intolerable life, and "God" (if s/he exists at all) will not object unless s/he simply wants to see us suffer.
Just as notions of "God" often consign women to backroom abortions that kill them and their babies, such beliefs also also consign many humans to unsuccessful but maiming or extremely inhumane suicide attempts. "In Brazil,
for example, the high suicide rates in tobacco growing regions
may be owing to the wide use and availability of pesticides
). Furthermore, pesticides accounted for 18%
of male and 7% of female hospital admissions for self-harm
in Campinas, Brazil, in 2002-2004 (Fleischmann et al, 2005
" Deaths from Pesticide Poisoning: A Global Response
I suspected for a moment that perhaps the Swiss Supreme Court could make such a determination because the Swiss simply don't believe in God as much as Americans do. But apparently this is not the case at all. Various websites, both of atheists and of theists, concur that atheism does not predominate in Switzerland
, with between 17 and 27% of Swiss identifying as atheist, (as compared to 3-4.5% of USA's telling pollsters that they are atheists.
So, why is there such a great difference between USA public policy and thinking (and individual counsel) with respect to this issue, and that which has become public policy and at least somewhat more socially acceptable in Switzerland? Why do people in the United States and Brazil kill themselves by gunshot wounds and hanging, and even by drinking lethal doses of crop insecticides, while people Switzerland have access of guaranteed-lethal doctor-prescribed doses of "natrium pentobarbital"?
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