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Chapter Six: A Moral Code

Section 10: Suicide and euthanasia

Each of us has the right to die with dignity - and no-one has the right to take that decision from us.


This is a relatively simple subject.

First, we define our terms:

• an individual commits suicide when they
    take their own life
• an individual who decides to end their
    own life but requires assistance to do so
    undergoes euthanasia (also known as
    assisted suicide).

"Euthanasia" has been used in the past to describe the killing of individuals by others who consider them less worthy human beings, because of their race, mental or physical defects or other reason. This is, of course, immoral and unacceptable.

In both cases, the individual has decided that their life is not worth living and that it is less harmful to them to die than to live.

The difference is that individuals contemplating suicide are usually physically well but beset by problems that they feel they cannot resolve, while those considering euthanasia are suffering from incurable medical conditions that severely restrict their lives and may impose intolerable pain.

Believers tell you that killing people is wrong because God condemns it. But the Jewish / Christian / Muslim God does not condemn all killing and he often encourages people to kill others. The reality is that religious morality places no value on human life - only on obedience to God.

6.10a Who decides?

Morality tells us that we have the right to choose the time and manner of our death if our life becomes intolerable.

Problems arise, however, when others, who have a different perspective, claim that there are alternative solutions and the individual's situation can be improved. Preventing death and improving the quality of life for others is also moral.

There is therefore a conflict between those
who want to die and those who want to save their lives. Both have morality on their side.
But at the end of the day, it is up to the individual concerned to decide what they will do. While others have the right - and the obligation - to help those contemplating suicide see alternatives that may keep them alive, no-one has the right to prevent to an individual from ending their life at a time and in a manner of their own choosing.

A true moral code not only allows, but insists, that each of us has the right to die with dignity - and no-one has the right to take that decision from us.

More discussion:
Life or death

Chapter Six: Section 11 Drugs

Are atheists immoral?

Religion makes a strong claim to morality - only God and faith, apparently, keep us moral.

It's a nice idea, but it's false. Religious morality is frequently harmful; only humanist values guarantee a truly ethical approach to life.

6.1: Defining morality
What's good for us?

6.2: God's morals
... leave much to be desired

6.3: Morals and ethics
From the abstract to the actual

6.4: Sex: what is it good for?
Whatever you want it to be

6.5: God and sex
Confusion and control

6.6: Sex: a broad spectrum
Tastes vary

6.7: Sex: Tell the children
Educate and protect

6.8: Abortion
An ethical approach

6.9: Humane justice
The death penalty is immoral

6.10: Suicide and euthanasia
Dying with dignity

6.11: Recreational drugs
A moral issue?

6.12: Do good...
... for goodness' sake

6.13: Summary
Chapter 7

How do you live when you realize that religion is false?

Do you descend into despair? Lead a life of crime and depravity?

The opposite, actually. Atheists appear more likely to live moral, happy lives than those who are stuck in superstition.

Beyond Religion