February 5, 2007

Ethics of Assisted Suicide

After reading about Switzerland's ruling to allow assisted suicide for people with serious mental illness, I feel like I should have a strong opinion either way.

But I don't. Death is a private affair that the state shouldn't have a hand in its ethics either way. But if the society as a whole has the belief that suicide is bad, then it makes sense to have a uniform ruling about when it can and can't be done from a legal standpoint. So, I feel rather neutral on it. If anything, this ruling tells me more about the Switzerland's social ethics.

I did however have a question. One of the requirements for a person to be allowed to help a seriously mentally ill patient, is that the act "must be a person of sound judgment's own well-considered and permanent decision".

If a person is so seriously mentally ill that he wishes to die, how can he possibly fit this requirement? How could the state/government know if it's the illness talking or the person? Who gets to decide if a mental illness is something a person suffers from, or if it's just who he is?

The concept sounds like it makes sense, but I'm not sure how this would be implemented. To the point that I'm not sure if the ruling actually means anything.

What do you think about this ruling?

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