Increasingly in today’s Western society, people want complete control of how they live their lives, yet relatively little is discussed in terms of how people choose to end their lives, and the options they have available to them.
Charities such as Dignitas try to keep this at the forefront of debate, especially with so many “developed” countries, including the UK, still considering assisted suicide and euthanasia to be a criminal offence. In March of this year, they went one step further than ever before- releasing a virtual reality whereby a person can “experience” what being at a clinic would involve, and, ultimately, have control of their virtual self, either opting for death, or choosing to live. This was developed as a result of debate as to whether patients admitting themselves to an assisted suicide clinic understood what irreversible steps they would be undertaking. Whilst this may seem extremely provocative and unsettling, it could ultimately be an essential resource for those with life-limiting and terminal conditions who decide that this is the path they wish to follow.
There are, however, other factions of society to consider. With the recent death of Ian Brady in the UK, and J.W. Ledford Jr. in Georgia, the debates around not just the death penalty, but assisted suicide have been reopened. There are obvious social, moral, and cultural implications surrounding these issues. One interesting point recently with the Ledford Jr. case is the fact that his legal team were seeking for him to be executed by firing squad, as opposed to lethal injection. This follows a series of studies suggesting that the lethal injection could constitute an inhumane method due to the drug concoction causing the prisoner extreme pain, whilst paralysing them and preventing them from communicating this. This issue is particularly interesting given the vast discrepancies between US states.
Students who are interested in applying for Medicine might be interested in the moral implications of the death penalty and assisted suicide. For those interested in Philosophy and Theology, it may be prudent to consider what is meant by “taking a life” and who would be in a position to make that judgment. Budding lawyers may be interested to consider the role of human rights in these different scenarios, for both criminals and members of society who are knowingly choosing to end their lives prematurely.