Assisted suicide advocates like to tell us that as autonomous self-determining individuals they have the right to determine the manner of their death. It is the classic proposition of libertarian individualists on every topic – it’s my business alone. If you don’t like it you don’t have to be involved. The problem is none of us are alone. We all live in a community where the private choices of individuals have public consequences for everyone.
With assisted suicide those public consequences will include many taxpayers being required to fund choices they hold profound objections to. MPs will be required to vote for budgets that include funding for an activity they may hold to be abhorrent. Health sector workers will be pressured to participate in supporting the provision of “services” they wish to have no part in. All this already occurs in New Zealand when it comes to terminating the lives of unborn children.
More important however is the impact on culture. Individualists like to think we all make our independent “self-determined” decisions in some cultural vacuum. But this is simply unrealistic. Culture has a huge impact on what is perceived to be the “right thing to do”. Legalising assisted suicide will normalise the concept of a “life not worth living”. It will promote acceptance of the idea of death as a solution. In a time of growing health costs and an ageing population it will then be a very short step to death as a duty.