A few weeks ago, I wrote that I consider all life precious. So, where does death fit in? Is the “reaper of death” grim or is it, instead, kind? I suppose that depends. In my view, a natural death can be a blessing. Just like any mechanical device we use until it wears out, our bodies are meant to reach a point where they no longer function effectively and should be discarded. Modern medical practices can keep bodies alive long past their usefulness, for years in some cases.

Should individuals have the right to decide when to end their lives? In the earliest of times, the question never came up, as nature took care of that for us. With advances in medicine, we can extend life far longer, and the question has become relevant. In most communities, by law, those with terminal illnesses are denied the right to end their lives on their own terms. At times, elderly people are not allowed to die a natural death but are kept alive, perhaps against their will, by loved ones who are unwilling to lose them quite yet.

Those who are infirm or very ill can be declared incompetent by courts and not allowed to decide when they can die. But is that right? I don’t think so, at least for the terminally ill, or those whose bodies are worn out. I believe there is a difference between a person ending their life due to their perceived failures, and one who is facing an unavoidably painful death, or so sick their quality of life has so deteriorated that death would be a mercy. Very ill people should have the right to choose the time, place, and manner of their death. The physically healthy, wishing for death, can be avoiding responsibility for their problems in life, and may be using death as an attempt to punish others they blame for their circumstances. Some with terminal illnesses can accept that they have completed their life, good or bad, ready or not. Many can accept that their body is no longer viable, and continuing may be preventing others, such as family caregivers, from living their full lives.

As for killing their own healthy body, a person usually has debts, whether in money, responsibility, or time. A debt owed, whether legally or morally, should be paid. Ending your life to avoid responsibilities is as immoral as any other means of escaping payment.

Taking one’s own life when healthy may also be a way of dodging the punishment for crimes committed. No matter the cause, ultimately it is the perception that failure is absolute, and all hope of redemption is gone, but “skipping out” in any fashion on one’s responsibilities is wrong.

I have written before that the stork that was carrying me to the Rockefeller mansion (so that I be born into the lap of luxury) became so tired, that he dropped me on my head into the arms of a couple of poor dirt farmers in Western Oklahoma. I do not consider this an excuse to fail, but an opportunity to lead a whole and worthwhile life. No whining folks. Be productive and fruitful in all endeavors, and choose life. Only then, when this life is complete, a blessed death.

May all of you have a long, fruitful, fulfilling life and a death worthy of your life.

Jerry Philosophical Life Lessons

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