Assisted suicide in Utopia

Think about a young man who for his entire life had pursued an ideal of freedom made of unconventional experiences, travels, sport and a great passion for music. A man hungry for life, a life which for him had to be a whirl of emotions rather than a sequence of strict rules of convenience and duty. That was the life he had wanted for himself and the woman he loved and the only one he had believed worth living for.Then, one day: darkness. He opened his eyes and found himself blind and quadriplegic after a car accident.

Fabiano, that was his name, tried any sort of therapy with the  hope of regaining a little independence and avoiding  being a complete burden to his family and partner. He desperately did anything he had in his powers. Nothing could ease his pain. Then, he understood: that was the only possible life he had to expect for himself for the rest of his days. He had been condemned to live in an “endless night“- these are his words – whose only way out was a door which had the name of death on. This is what he had understood and day by day the thought of death became sweeter and sweeter and even started to taste like that freedom he had dreamed for all his entire life. Of course, for anybody in his condition, it was impossible to reach that door alone, he needed the support of his family and friends, but that was not enough, as here in Italy euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal, and anybody who had endeavoured to help him would have risked 12 years in jail. He  would have needed the support of all those parliamentarians who had avoided the trouble to discuss that law which had been lying in some secret drawer for years. He wanted to die, but he couldn’t and despite the clamor on tv and newspapers, everything remained intolerably still. Till one day a helping hand from a foundation, took him to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal, and set him free.

In 2017 the question about whether a man has the right to put an end to his own life, whatever the nature of his decision is, really sounds so medieval to me and the restrictions of laws absolutely pitiless.  However, it was 1516, therefore 500 years ago, when Thomas More,  a churchman, in his book “Utopia” dealt with issue of the end of life with more mercy. In Utopia “nothing is left undone” to help the sick, but for those who become terminally ill and suffer greatly “the priests and magistrates” therefore, the law and the Church hand in hand – “repair to them and exhort them, since they are unable to proceed with the business of life, are become a burden to themselves and all about them, and have in reality outlived themselves, they should not cherish a rooted disease, but choose to die since they cannot live but in great misery; being persuaded, if they thus deliver themselves from torture, or allow other to do it, they shall be happy after death”.

Well, but is this not a sin from a religious point of view? Not in Utopia, as those who decide to put and end to their life “act reasonably” and “consistently with religion for they follow the advice of their priests, the expounders of God’s will”. Hence, “those who are wrought upon by these persuasions , either starve themselves or take laudanum”. Of course, “nobody is compelled to end his life thus” and those who do not accept such an option are treated as kindly and tenderly as before. However; in case somebody commits suicide without the assent of ” the priests and senate,they honour not the body with a decent funeral, but throw it into a ditch”.

Well, despite the creepy ending, these are the most reasonable words I have ever read about the subject. After the emotional tide caused by the death of Fabiano, that law from that secret drawer was eventually taken and discussed in Parliament. There were only 20 MPs in that day.





19 thoughts on “Assisted suicide in Utopia

  1. Pingback: From e-Tinkerbell – inannadreams

  2. I love your post, Tinker bell. I wan to comment the following: We all humans belong to continental structures, despite the fact that some decide to become insulars, either for their circumstances or will. Iron gates of “spirituality” and covetousness emerge before naive eyes, whose body and souls end up into a continental island full of lies. Have a great day!

  3. I’m hoping to see a clearer understanding of life itself from a theological perspective. Just what is this gift and our responsibilities to it? Particularly troubling is the question of just what happens to our soul, as it’s understood in the Psalms as the seat of our spiritual experience, when we lose our story — our memory — as happens in dementia? We assume much but examine little in these matters.

    • I really do not know if a theological perspective may help us see clearer on the issue. What I know is that religion is a private matter and laws cannot be made out religious beliefs.

  4. Since I have not walked in his shoes, I can’t condemn the man for his course of action. But I don’t understand his action. Unless he was in tremendous pain. I think of others who looked at their situation and found hope. I am thinking of two individuals in particular: Stephen Hawking and Christopher Reeve. Also we live in an age of medical miracles as we can tell from the miraculous treatment for those veterans who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. This reminds me of the words of Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

  5. A big subject, Stefy, one which I can’t, and won’t, treat briefly in a short comment on your post.

    All I’d say is that as a species we hold such contradictory beliefs and opinions about our individual lives and the leaving of it. For example we might be uneasy about abortion and assisted suicide yet condone capital punishment and so-called just wars where innocent lives (“collateral damage”) may be taken.

    So what chance is there of having a rational discussion when culture and religion and, especially, emotion are added into the mix? I’d say, none at all.

    And now I’ve done exactly what I said I wouldn’t do. I’ll leave it at that.

    • Dear Chris, when “the whips and scorns of life” become unbearable and your body has been deeply wounded, well, you must have the right to say stop if you wish. This is the only rational thought I may have on the subject. 🙋

  6. Great post. The legal prohibition on suicide is based on the religious belief that God made human life and gets to decide when we die. In free societies, individuals should be able to determine this for themselves. I do think it’s reasonable to require a psychological evaluation or even a “waiting period” in case someone is depressed and could benefit from treatment.

  7. There is no greater freedom than to decide one’s own fate. That one should have to justify to another this most difficult of decisions really grates.

    The reality is that those who are serious about this final act of their lives will do it regardless of permission from any self-appointed guardians.

    I can buy into the waiting period, but as for the “evaluation” requirement . . . why? How can someone who has a strong desire to live evaluate someone who does not share that desire? What criteria would they use? If I wanted to end my life tomorrow, why do I need to justify it to a stranger?

    I suggest that anyone who successfully keeps another human being from ending their life — be they doctors, legislators, so-called holy men — become legally responsible for that person in all manners of their lives and be charged with ensuring the fullness of that person’s life even to the detriment of their own.

    As an aside, individuals freely engage in all manner of activities and make all sorts of lifestyle choices that significantly increase their chances of dying, and no one bats an eye.

    • You are right: ” there is no greater freedom than decide one’s own fate”. These are words of wisdom, logic and let me say, compassion. As long as any legislator has to take in consideration religious dogmatism in these matters, this obscurantism will never end.

  8. This is such a hot button topic for me, after watching my mother wither away from dementia over 5 years. We are kinder to our animals and don’t force them to suffer. Finally, there are now a couple of states in the US that allow assisted suicide.

    • I did the same with my father, and I witnessed the cruelty of his mental and physical decay, the “scorns of life” as the old bard said. Whoever has experienced this , knows well how compassionate the option of assisted suicide is. 🙋

  9. Very well-written piece etinkerbell. It is such a dilemma, but when put this way, it shouldn’t be a dilemma at all. The Netherlands, where I live, also allows assisted suicide through euthanasia and it is very strictly regulated. We have a family member who had a debilitating disease who chose this route. They had to decide while they were still coherent, but they knew it was the right decision all the way around. I like curvy roads comment as well. We do give this option to our pets. Why not our citizens?

    • Hi Kristin, I knew Holland was one of the very few countries in the world which had this option. In my country any such attempt is to face the direct/indirect opposition of the Vatican, besides any politician is pretty careful about keeping his catholic voters.

  10. This post really struck a chord with me. My son’s step-daughter recently became a tetraplegic /quadraplegic at nineteen. It has destroyed his life, and that of her mother as well as hers.
    While she is facing the future with great courage, I see her parents being ground down by what it takes in money, time, privacy and the way their lives have no freedom any more – just an endless vista of wheelchairs and strangers coming to help nurse her and their privacy invaded for the rest of their lives…

    • I’m so sorry to read this. Only those who have experienced such or similar situations , and I am one of them : my father years ago and now my mother, can understand the real meaning of all this.

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