Do you own your body? Can you end your life at any time you wish without penalty or provocation?

If you believe you own your body — and you alone make decisions concerning life and death — how do you deal with those around you who believe in predestiny?

Belief in predestiny requires acceptance you are not in control of the parameters of your life because a greater energy sealed your path of action before you were born.

Predestiny and Euthanasia argue opposite poles of human existence: One provides a direct line between birth and death while the other offers endless options for living and dying. Which side are you on — and why are you convinced your way is the best way to lug a life — and how do you handle those who sit in opposition of your core values?

71 Comments

  1. So many questions ………… in such a short post!
    I am in the *I own my body* camp. ( However I do seem to recall a post about certain large companies owning certain DNA strings – I could not find via either of the search boxes πŸ™ )
    I am proactive I work and make active choices about what I do and how I behave, where I live, what I eat etc etc.
    I have fought to live – I have cheated the grim reaper once – and I have the scars to prove it.
    I would like to think that when my life becomes intolerable that I will be able to find the means to send my life with dignity.
    My father was denied this by Alzheimer’s disease – much to his distress and those family around him. My mother is much luckier – she can still gain pleasure from food and drink – especially chocolate and a glass of sherry. She also gains pleasure from the sunshine, her children and her grandchildren. She suffers no pain or discomfort and although frail she remains as active as she can.
    Pain and dignity are the priority judgements for me personally here – along with long term prognosis.
    A recent example – a friend of mine recently died . She had acute myeloid leukaemia . She went into hospital for her first chemotherapy sessions and contracted septicaemia from the Hickman line that was introduced to supply the chemotherapy. Within 48 hours she was on life support in ICU. She had expressed in writing beforehand that she did not wish to be kept alive in such conditions. The hospital under pressure from relatives and her written document agreed they would switch off the life support after four days – give the antibiotics a chance to work – the family reluctantly agreed. 48 hours later my friend was overwhelmed by the septicaemia and the hospital again under pressure agreed to remove life support. My friend passed away within about 5 minutes of life support being removed.
    Her family were understandably distressed by her death, but also by the nature of it and the failure of the doctors to agree to her wishes.
    Assisted suicide is illegal in this country – where a lot of our laws are still intertwined with religious principles – where one of the greatest sins is to take your own life. To assist another to take their own life used to be tantamount to murder. A new crime of assisted suicide has now been introduced for which a custodial sentence is usually given. Assisting a suicide carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment in England and Wales – unless their are exceptional circumstances.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=491388&in_page_id=1770
    If you wish to take your own life and you are unable to by nature of your condition the only option available to you in the UK is to travel to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4643196.stm
    (Please note that there are now certain stories and bad press circulating about Dignitas – they head the google results)
    This is the website for Dignitas – it is in German – there is a google translation available.
    http://www.dignitas.ch/
    I would hope when my time comes I will be able to make a dignified choice. I do not fancy the refusal of food and water – starvation and dehydration can take up to ten days and is extremely painful and distressing.
    My last point is that we afford animals more dignity in death than we do humans.

  2. jonolan —
    I can tell you haven’t had a lot of conversations with the Predestiny crowd. πŸ˜€
    Predestiny requires the outside careful eye and influence of a patriarchal Godlike entity that plans your life ahead of you. Choices in your life are not that — because the choice you make isn’t of free will but of being preordained.
    Euthanasia, for the Predestiny crowd, is never an option because it demands outside intervention in the ending of a life and only the Gods can end a life and they would never end a path in euthanasia or suicide or leaping off a cliff because those are antithetical to the mystic plan that a loving God would allow your pre-planned life in such an unholy manner.
    We need only look at Terri Schiavo’s “fight to live” by the Predestiny crowd who claimed to see life in death, light in darkness and cogency in the dead brain:

    An angel comforts and shields Terri with one wing and motions heavenward with the other in anticipation of the final outcome. The four cherubs perched around the base face away from Terri towards the four corners of the earth, charged with the judgment on humanity for allowing such a travesty to occur.

    http://www.terrisfight.org/

  3. Hi Nicola!
    Thanks for those great links! I appreciate your excellent thoughts.
    Here’s a comment that has something to do with DNA of the past:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2006/12/11/embryo-eugenics-proactive-natural-selection/#comment-28924
    I appreciate you sharing the story of your friend’s passing with us and the awful conditions that surrounded her.
    It’s interesting that, today, “Euthanized” deals with animals while “Euthanasia” deals with people. Sometimes mixing the two can lead to confusion in the minds of some and the Predestiny Crowd support neither because they are both considered the unnatural expiration of a life. They see life as a wind-up toy and the journey only ends when the life tires out of a body and the final end is never self-invoked or actively sought by outside influences.

  4. David,
    You’re correct – but… Even the Predestinists claim that some will go to Hell. Therefor it is possible under that belief that are Predestined by God to commit suicide (self euthanize) and be damned.
    Let’s just say that I disagree with some of them for more reason than I disagree some of them ;P

  5. jonolan —
    Other than Calvinists and some niche radicals — which religious group believes Hell can be a Predestiny? If that were a generally shared religious belief — and I believe it is not — then what’s the point of making progress in a life if the end is an unearned, pre-birth, determination?
    The major mainstream Christian religions believe in a modicum of “free will” and “God’s Plan” for them and that includes the option of actively choosing heaven or hell based on the deeds of your life — and they are quick to say God wants EVERYONE Saved — but I have yet to meet anyone in the mainstream Predestiny crowd that believes “straight to hell” is a supernatural want unless one “chooses” the non-righteous path of playing God and ending your life or having it interrupted by outside forces.

  6. There’s the rub ain’t it? Calvinists – yep, those were the ones I was referencing are the only True Predestinists I’ve encountered. All the others claim Predestiny – yet say you can choose after all, but it’s sin. Hmmm…doesn’t sound predestined to me.
    Anyway, back to your original question: I’ll choose when and how I die if I can.

  7. I don’t believe in Predestiny and even if there was such a thing our free-will would always allow us to overrule it. Assuming we would be “predestined” to do it is just a pointless paradox. If our life path is “God-determined” so is our free will “God-given”, and a “god” wouldn’t give us the means to “unauthorize” them in their ‘divine plan’, those two things are incompatible.
    Nicola, you are so right!: Β«My last point is that we afford animals more dignity in death than we do humans.Β»
    Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
    (http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html)
    Article 1.
    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
    Article 3.
    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
    [Right to live, not Duty to live. – terminally ill people have no longer real liberty, or life in the ideal sense; if they express their will to end it, they should be granted the right; if they are unable to express it, it is complicated, yes, and the decision must be very well pondered, but that right cannot be automatically denied]
    Article 4.
    No one shall be held in slavery (…)
    [Here slavery is in the classic sense naturally, but if we extrapolate the concept, a similar article to this one should be created to encompass all forms of slavery]
    Article 5. (fundamental article to this topic)
    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
    [This particular article is self-explanatory…]
    Article 29.
    (…)(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (…)
    [Euthanasia doesn’t trample the rights of any others; those others should place the suffering person’s interests first. It’s about humanity and compassion: article one advocates the spirit of brotherhood]
    I’m no stranger to this reality either and it is revolting that Euthanasia is still so much a taboo. Why are the rights of terminally ill overlooked in order to please a majority that is oblivious or uncaring of their situation? It takes unusual humanity to pass a law that will be unpopular with the voting masses. But the right to dignity is universal, and no “morality” should deprive a human being of it. I cannot understand how so many people shout “the right to live” in order to oppose Euthanasia and frankly I wonder how many of those people unfortunate to eventually experience that situation have a change of heart in this matter.

  8. jonolan —
    I don’t think I’ve ever met a Calvinist before. Have you? How many of them are there in the world?
    I met a Quaker once and we shared an interesting conversations about her religion and I liked a lot of it. Sitting in silence must be wonderful to do as a group in someone’s house and I’m being interested and not scatological in mentioning that.
    She was not, however, happy to hear how William Penn’s sons were crooks and never even tried to live up to the greatness or expectations of their father. πŸ˜€
    You raise interesting and important questions. I find those who claim God provides free will always conditionalize it when questioned by saying, “Well… it’s free will as long as you’re on God’s path for you… and if you stray… it’s the Devil that got you…”
    I, too, will chose to live and die by my own atheistic convictions! πŸ˜€

  9. One more point I want to make is that dying is part of living.
    Once we are born – we will die ……….. we have the right to life and the right to live – we also have the right to choose the manner of our death.
    Iris – once again you are spot on.

  10. iris!
    Excellent post and I thank you for your research.
    People who Believe are terrified of self-determination and Euthanasia because instead of a kindly God watching over you with a plan to bring you into heaven in the afterlife while Guardian Angels share a watchful dominion over your everyday life — you are instead alone, free thinking and on your own in the world.
    The fact that you own your life and the decisions you make are not already made by some ephemeral Godhead — is a terrifying notion to people who live to follow and not lead. They cannot be responsible for the suffering in their lives — they must pin that blame on a higher power.

  11. Then David, instead of Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum. [I think, therefore I am.] I propose Exigo, ergo sum. [I decide, therefore I am.]. We can only decide once we “are here” after all. πŸ™‚

  12. They may argue all they like on their own behalf – they are entitled to their beliefs so long as they do not force them upon me ( no matter what their God tells them to do.)
    My beliefs are that my soul is on a journey – this current life is part of that journey and that I got to choose when and where I was born to learn the lessons that I needed to learn in this life.
    Now I wonder if they will agree to disagree ?

  13. Well said, iris!
    When I was in high school there was a universally hated English teacher who had a favorite response to complaining students when he would overload us with homework we could never finish: “You only have to do two things in life. Die and make decisions.”
    A student would then immediately raise a hand and say, “Oh, no we don’t!” — thus, proving that even hated people can make a good point now and then. πŸ˜€

  14. Funnily enough the local “would be savers of my soul – AKA the God Squad” – leave me well alone – think it is something to to with the “den of iniquity” – I think they think I am too far gone to be saved !
    Although I had a very nice discussion with the Jehovah’s Witnesses about how much I respected their beliefs and then pointed out that I was only alive because I had 8 pints of blood transfusion ………. they haven’t been back.

  15. iris —
    Yes, you are right! Medieval is the perfect word for it and they believed every word of it.
    I asked them if an infant is born without arms and legs is that infant “infected” by the Devil as well?
    They laughed and said, “Of course! The infant is paying for the mother’s sin!”
    I don’t know how you can have a friendly — let alone rational — conversation with people who think like that.

  16. Exactly, can’t be rational without Reason. And dogma doesn’t allow alternatives by definition. It’s a loosing battle :/ better to talk to a wall, you won’t get much feedback either, but at least you can punch it…

  17. Right, iris! I find it’s best to not even entertain those sorts of thinkers and I try to stay away from them as much as possible.
    That’s why, as an avowed atheist, I actually love and respect learning about ALL religions because I find them fascinating — but to True Believers that position is untenable because you cannot spread your faith or dissect your beliefs. You must chose one path and blindly follow.

  18. David – That would make my blood boil too ………… and you cannot have a rational debate with people like that. A very good job I did not encounter that.
    Iris – I now have a blood donor sticker in the window as well. I have in the past ( at a previous house ) also threatened to report them to social services and the education authority for touting for business and knocking on doors with two school age children with them during school term time. It was pouring with rain at the time and the poor children were soaked through.

  19. “That’s why, as an avowed atheist, I actually love and respect learning about ALL religions because I find them fascinating β€” but to True Believers that position is untenable because you cannot spread your faith or dissect your beliefs. You must chose one path and blindly follow.”
    This is why I always respond to any questions about my religion as “spiritual”. My beliefs are personal to me, they are what work for me and what have served me best.
    I have spoken in the past about why I fell out with organised religion – namely their refusal to bury and baptised 9 week old baby in the churchyard – because he died in sin.
    I guess in some ways I should be grateful for that because it set me free to find my own path.

  20. Nicola —
    Yes! Find a path and invite others to share it. That’s the best way.
    There’s an interesting show here on TV called “Kid Nation” where 40 kids get together to create an Old West town.
    One of the tasks for the week was to create a religious service. The four town council leaders decided they would have “One Big Meeting” where all religions would be celebrated at the same time and the rest of the town HATED the idea!
    The Christians didn’t want to interact with the Muslims and the Hindu didn’t want to be mocked for their prayers. It was a forced mess that ended in a revolt of NO ONE showing up for the meeting except the town council.
    Then, later that night, a few of the kids decided to start a fire in a barrel and hold hands and sing songs.
    One of the younger girls went around to all the bunkhouses and said, “We’re getting together to stand around the fire and sing. You don’t have to come. But if you want to come over, we’d love to you.”
    All the kids showed up and they all sang and celebrated being with each other without needing to draw lines or define camps of thinking. It was touching.

  21. I was on my way to bed, but decided to take one last look here…. thanks David, for making me almost choke on my tea! πŸ˜‰
    That’s an endearing story David! (^^D)
    Well, I guess I’ll go now, I have a lot to study tomorrow, especially for one of those happy teachers we mentioned a while ago hahah!
    Good Night!! πŸ™‚

  22. Nicola —
    It gives me hope, too, because the kids were really furious and separated and angry all day with each other and feeling their beliefs were going to be challenged at the big get together.
    So… they separated. Christians over there. Muslims here. The two Jews right here in the center of town — and I tell you the two young Jews “outed” and identified by their religion only instead of their deeds was incredibly uncomfortable to watch. They were strong and unbowed, but you could tell the rest of the town was giving them evil looks and pointing. Nasty microcosm of the real world, natch.

  23. Thanks, Nicola! It was “Fun With The CSS Upgrade” time this afternoon when I was supposed to be writing. πŸ˜€
    I was also able to make MyBlogLog fit in a little better with look and feel. I changed how the Blockquotes look, too.

  24. David, as a Muslim, I would be judged harshly and might even be condemned to the lowest level of hell for admiting the fact that I think I should decide on how I should kick the bucket, given an option. And this applies to a theoretical condition where I cannot care for myself any longer due to prolonged sickness.
    If I were to suffer like a dead, expired mat, immobilised on my sick bed for ohhhhhh….say 10 years, is this fair to me? The living might go on with their lives. I am still there, in bed. My mind will still be active and yet the flesh has gone. What a terrible way to live!
    And, you asked , “β€” and how do you handle those who sit in opposition of your core values?
    For this, I simply have no answer. I would be lying on my sickbed, remember?
    The point is, when the time comes a calling, I want to be able to make that decision myself, and to go with dignity.

  25. That’s a fascinating story, Hanie, so does your religion allow you a “Living Will” where you can say, “If I am brain dead, I want doctors to remove life support” — or are you just expected to be in a vegetative state for the rest of your life?
    How is murder viewed in the Muslim community? Do you earn that death? Is murder part of your Predestiny?

  26. Β«as a Muslim, I would be judged harshly and might even be condemned to the lowest level of hell for admiting the fact that I think I should decide on how I should kick the bucket, given an option.Β»
    That’s terrible Hanie…
    I dare say that once having reached that desperate point, being condemned to the “lowest level of hell” by others seems but a small price.

  27. I am injecting a morbid and inappropriate thought here in the form of a joke I wrote over the weekend:

    So this father finds out the Predestiny of his college-graduated daughter was to go straight to Hell on her 25th birthday…
    “Hell, if I’d know that,” the father complained, “I would’ve paid for her to go to a state school instead of Harvard.”

  28. jonolan,
    I am aware of that, but Hanie claimed she would be “judged harshly and might even be condemned to the lowest level of hell”. So apparently, apart from refusing assisted suicide (very legitimately, it’s their individual choice), her fellow Muslims appear to be rather intolerant of her own personal choice. And that’s where the difference lies:
    I know an elder gentleman in the clergy and we used to talk sometimes. – He knows I’m an atheist. – We have talked about Euthanasia and compared our opposing POVs with complete civility and even some sense of humour. He didn’t judge me harshly nor condemned me to Hell, and he’s a catholic priest, and a perfectly reasonable and tolerant man.

  29. Iris,
    I guess Hanie will have to clarify whether she meant condemned by Allah and the teachings of the Imams and Mullahs, condemned by her fellow Muslims, or both. I took it as a condemnation by her Deity / Religion, not necessarily her fellow “parishioners”.
    A note on your friend though, he still wouldn’t be allowed to bury a suicide on Holy Ground. Catholicism doesn’t allow that.

  30. That’s true Janolan, it wasn’t very clear, and I understood it differently.
    My friend wouldn’t be allowed to bury a suicide in consecrated ground, but only because the rules imposed by the institution he serves transcend his own personal will or opinion.
    He respects those rules, but naturally it’s not his place to change them. Still, the fact that he can’t change the rules doesn’t make him less tolerant than I described.

  31. Euthanasia – a religious / philosophical perspective in two flavors πŸ˜‰
    1) Any faith with a defined permanent afterlife (Abrahamic as example): suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
    2) Any faith without a defined permanent afterlife (Buddhism as example): suicide is a temporary solution to a permanent problem.
    Hehe.