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[cancer] Assisted suicide and the will to live - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2013-11-13 09:03
Subject: [cancer] Assisted suicide and the will to live
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, child, death, family, friends, health, personal, radiantlisa
Yesterday someone asked me why, if I was so miserable, I didn't go ahead with assisted suicide, as provided for by the Oregon Death With Dignity Act. Voluntary euthanasia has been legal here for many years, the primary criteria being that the patient is mentally competent to request it, the request be made both verbally and in writing, and that the patient be terminally ill with six months or less to live.

While I frankly didn't appreciate the question very much, on reflection I realized it was a fair one.

The short answer is my will to live. As Lisa Costello has said, if will to live were sufficient for survival, I'd live forever. I can imagine letting go in the very late stages of my terminal decline, if I were overwhelmed by the physical and psychic pain of dying, but not short of that.

The slightly longer answer is that [info]the_child needs me. My lovers, friends and family need me. I need me. Like most people, I dwell in the center of an interwoven tapestry of love and obligation and joy and desire and support, and I don't want to tear myself out of that place any sooner than I have to.

The more complex answer, as simple as it may be on the surface, is my atheism. Despite thousands of years of wishful thinking and uncountable faith narratives from virtually every human culture, there is not one shred of objective, repeatable evidence for the survival of self beyond the death of the brain. When I die, I will experience personal extinction. That's not a belief, that's not a theory; that's a simple, empirical fact borne out by the experience of every human being who has ever lived and died before me. While I'd love to be an exception, given that basic truth of course I want to hang around the party as long as possible.

One final point: once I'm dead, I won't know the difference. But many other people I care about will. So for them, I live as long as I can.

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russ: zen
User: goulo
Date: 2013-11-13 16:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:zen
Makes sense to me!


(And that is good that Oregon is so progressive/enlightened about letting such a personal thing be legal. There's sure nothing like that in Catholic-dominated Poland...)

===

Although... (if pointless philosophical/semantic nitpickery is in order) I see the question of the existence of god to be a separate independent question from the existence of an eternal soul that lives on past our bodily death (analogous to the existence of magic, for example), so to me it's not "atheism" per se which makes me want to hang around this party longer, but rather lack of belief in an afterlife.

Granted, there's no scientific evidence for either god or an afterlife, and belief in one seems to usually accompany belief in the other for most people, as justified by the same religious sources for both beliefs... but I can see no logical/philosophical necessity for them to be considered equivalent: I can certainly conceive of the existence of a god who created us such that there's nothing left of us after we die. And I can certainly conceive of us our selves somehow continuing after our bodily deaths, without the need of any god having caused that.

But that's perhaps just a question of short-hand labeling... there doesn't seem a convenient short word for not believing in an afterlife like there is "atheism" for not believing in god... "non-life-after-death-ism" just doesn't roll off the tongue in the same way...
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Andrew Trembley
User: bovil
Date: 2013-11-13 21:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Think of atheism as not believing in the supernatural. Popular supernatural frameworks are all associated with some religion. "Afterlife" pretty much requires a supernatural framework to support the concept. Not believing in the central tenet of a supernatural framework (god or gods) pretty much brings the whole framework crashing down.
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russ: zen
User: goulo
Date: 2013-11-13 22:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:zen
Well, as mcjulie points out, there are "real world" counterexample religions in both directions.

But I'm not so interested in what establishment religions say about it; I was talking about the logical/philosophical point that "god" and "afterlife" are 2 quite different things.

And in any case, even if you believe that god is necessary for an afterlife to exist, it doesn't prove that god implies an afterlife exists. For all theists know, god created us to die and that's all... :)
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2013-11-13 21:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, if I'm remembering my comparative religions correctly, Buddhism could be called an atheistic religion with an afterlife, as most forms don't have an ultimate God figure, while early Jews had an ultimate God figure without an afterlife concept.

So I'm not sure the two are as inevitably entwined as our Christianish cultural background leads us to assume.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2013-11-13 21:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
once I'm dead, I won't know the difference. But many other people I care about will. So for them, I live as long as I can.

That is pretty much the best argument for why not to kill yourself there could ever be.
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