Monday, January 21, 2013
This question of whether assisted suicide is okay has been raised before, but an incident in a small town in California has brought the question to light once again. An 86-year-old firefighter named George Taylor and his wife made a suicide pact. The agreement was that they were to die together when the time came. George succeeded in assisting his wife in her suicide attempt but failed in his own attempt. The county where George and his wife resided found George guilty of aiding and abetting the suicide and sentenced him to 2 days in jail and probation. What was strange was that there seemed to be no reason for the suicide because the couple was not suffering from illness and they were financially stable. The only thing that makes sense about this situation is that the couple seemed to be an advocate of physician-assisted suicide, including the teachings of Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
What is intriguing from this stand point is the light sentence that was given to George. At the time of the sentencing George had already spent 2 days in jail, which means that the only consequence in this instance was probation. Some believe that the court's light sentence may be the result of a shift in philosophy in "that elderly people do have a right to die, even if assisted by a loved one." Does this equate to a shift in public opinion? Some do not think so, considering that this debate has drawn sharp lines in sands between people. Most of the discontent arises from "differences in [people's] personal, religious and moral beliefs." Regardless of the controversy surrounding life and death decisions, it is difficult to judge George Taylor and his wife especially because we know very little about what led them to take their own lives. Maybe they wanted to make their own decision about when they wanted to end their life. Really, is that such a controversial thought?
See Carolyn Rosenblatt, Is It Ever OK To Assist An Elder To Commit Suicide?, Forbes, Jan. 19, 2013.