You are here:   Text > The Dying of the Light

Chantal Sébire was allergic to morphine. Her intense pain had to be treated with aspirin (a ridiculous thought). Her face was so disfigured by cancer that she thought she could no longer be seen in public. The sad thing is that she was probably right. She was embarrassed in front of her own children. President Nicolas Sarkozy didn't grant her wish. Of course he didn't. Had he done so, he would have set a precedent, with terrible consequences. One doesn't even want to think that every patient in a similar predicament would be judged by the Sébire "paradigm", or would be compared with this case, if only in hushed tones. "Sébire was able to leave us-so why doesn't he leave us as well?" This argument - that the measure of these matters is not the value of life but the timeliness of dying - is crucial, more important than the fear we have that people would abuse (for one must admit the possibility) the gradual liberalisation of euthanasia. Such fears of abuse might be eased through a sensible process of liberalisation. However, as soon as it became legal to prescribe or to possess the necessary deadly substances - or if active assistance in suicide became legal - it would no longer be the one who leaves who has to justify his or her decision, but rather the one who stays. A horrible scenario.

In Germany, the term euthanasia (Euthanasie) has historical and ideological overtones. It doesn't just mean euthanasia in general but also refers to the murders carried out by the Nazis (This is the reason why Germans speak of Sterbehilfe instead of Euthanasie). A "peaceful and gentle death" was in those dark years nothing but an empty phrase for the mass murder of mentally-ill people - people who absolutely did not want to die. It is important to keep this perverse interpretation of "the assisted death" in one's mind. It is also important to point out the possibility of abuse. However, the Nazi years cannot be used as some kind of trump-card argument. During those years you got killed if you didn't conform with the crude norms of the Übermenschen. The questions today are different: should you refuse somebody who is mortally ill and in full possession of their mental capacities their wish to die? Is there such a thing as a rational wish to die? Does that not run contrary to human nature? What happens to much-trumpeted individual autonomy if a person is connected to high-tech medical equipment and is thus in every important sense reliant on others?

View Full Article

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.