Fundamentally, our lives belong to us alone

There is a simple but profound question about every person’s existence: Does his life belong to him?

As our Founding Fathers might have asked: Does an individual have the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? They thought so. And if that is true, then there should be grave concerns about the march of our society toward statism, even if it is supposedly “for our own good.” Should others decide what is good for us, or should each individual be free and responsible for himself or herself? It’s the debate not only of our age, but of countless ages.

One branch on the tree of freedom is free speech. The right to say what one chooses, with others free to listen or not, agree or not. The basic right is the right to speak your mind and advocate your beliefs, without needing the permission of others. No, not all speech is “good.” But it should still be free.

So we must agree with a decision by a Minnesota appeals court this week that says a law banning advice or encouragement about how to commit suicide is unconstitutional. While the state may still ban actual assisted suicide, the court ruled the prohibition on advocacy goes too far.

We would all hope that those contemplating suicide get the help they need and deserve. But the cases in question do not involve young people with a treatable condition such as depression. They tend to involve people with horrifying chronic conditions that leave them in pain or ravage their bodies so that they are largely unable to function. Existence is a nightmare. These people may simply want to know about ending their own suffering in a quiet, humane way.

To criminalize the actions of those who would tell them – or who would tell them it is OK – is absurd. What’s more, of course, is that the person considering their own end has every right to do so. Again, our lives belong to each of us.