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November 13, 2007

One Student's Response to the Issue of Death and Dying

By Sumeera Younis

As I listened to the speakers at the Law Review Symposium, as much as I tried, I couldn’t understand why the state or the federal government has the authority to dictate whether an individual has a right to seek assistance in taking his own life. Perhaps some of you are reading this and have lost a friend or family member to suicide and such a proposition is offensive. That is because we are standing on the side that wants life.


But there are those who are standing on the other side, who have continuous struggles that amount to a sustained desire not to live. They are the ones that parents find dead, and those are the ones that we hear about on the six o’clock news; having driven off the road killing themselves and others. As grotesque a picture as that may be, it is the reality we have created. Ignoring that suicide is a reality in this country and the world, in this age and the ages before it, is turning a blind eye to a serious social issue. Creating a systemized assisted suicide program may be one way of addressing it.

The word dignity was often used at the symposium, and perhaps we don’t want the government to say it is permissible to help someone take his own life because it undermines our conception of the dignity of human life. When we strip individual’s of the autonomy to make personal choices that are best for them, and when the government steps in and dictates morality, that is the true assault on dignity. Just as the symposium could not begin to scratch the surface of the right to an assisted death in the case of terminally ill patients, this note cannot begin to address the various considerations and implications of federally regulated assisted suicide. Instead, as we reflect on the ten-year anniversary of Washington v. Glucksberg I invite you to consider that the choices that are best for you are not those that are the best for everyone and the truths that we take as apparent today were not always so clear.