The right to die is the belief that humans have the right to decide when they no longer want to live, regardless of the circumstances. A person’s right to death in a manner of his or her choosing is a controversial subject around the world, and it’s been at the forefront of a number of human rights arguments. This right might apply to one afflicted by a terminal medical condition or to a person who no longer has the desire to live.
Critics of the right to die argue that governments have a direct interest in whether one lives or dies and therefore should have the ultimate say-so regarding the matter. Proponents of the right to die argue that decisions made regarding one’s life and body should be made by the individual and his or her family alone. The matter generally involves arguments for or against assisted suicide, but it might involve other issues as well, such as the discontinuation of extended life support. Assisted suicide is usually performed by euthanasia, a practice also performed by veterinarians for suffering or terminally ill animals.
As of 2010, only a handful of nations formally recognized a right to die and had granted their citizens a legal choice in the matter. These nations included Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. In many nations, such as the United States, the act of assisted suicide has been considered a serious and punishable crime. One high-profile case involved Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a pathologist who helped more than 130 patients end their lives in the early 1990s. Kevorkian was convicted of second-degree murder and served eight years in prison. U.S. states such as Oregon and Washington, however, have legalized assisted suicide under certain circumstances.
The right to die argument also arises in situations when one is in a partial or complete vegetative state and relies on life support to live. Proponents in this situation argue that keeping the person on life support is unhealthy for the person and the family. Critics argue that societies have an interest in protecting life no matter the circumstance, particularly if the afflicted person is unable to communicate whether he or she wants to continue living.
In general, religious groups around the world reject the right to die. There are exceptions of course. In Hinduism, it’s acceptable for one to end his or her life if he or she no longer has responsibilities or the desire to live. A similar theme is found in another religion originating in India, Jainism.