Six French philosophers, doctors and psychologists have published an open letter in L’Obs, a leading weekly news magazine, expressing their concerns about proposals for legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia. Here are some excerpts:
We are all affected by illness, old age and, inevitably, death. As human beings, each of us faces or will face the anxiety of these perspectives. Considering the possibility of “choosing” and therefore imagining controlling the moment of one’s death seems a reassuring option: faced with the anguish of uncertainty, a certain future always brings, at first glance, the reflection of relief.
But the individual’s relationship to illness or death is never a purely individual question. It is from a collective relationship to questions of death and vulnerabilities that human societies have been organized. However, this perspective is put aside by the current debate on the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide, which emphasizes individual freedom and the prospect of choosing one’s end of life …
Our future reality is that of old age, of dependence and of those who will accompany and take care of the sick and the elderly. The prospect of a society made up of a homogeneous group of healthy, able-bodied, young and successful subjects is not realistic, and probably undesirable.
Society must help us understand these perspectives for ourselves or for those close to us. It is because illness, old age and death, or even all three, can terrify us that we need to rely on a collective vision that supports and offers another dimension than that of loss, degradation and indignity. We are all concerned to participate in this social project. Caregivers primarily embody the caring function of our society, but all social and cultural fields must be engaged …
The challenge is significant, because it involves going against the path on which we are engaged, oriented by productivism, performance, and the promotion of the individual who is master of himself, valued by the list of his achievements and successes. Making room for the fault, for what doubts and stumbles, who hesitates or who is lacking is difficult but seems possible to us.
The debate on the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide is an opportunity to collectively reflect on the message sent to the most vulnerable, and even more on the societal project that we wish to build. We are thus given the opportunity to reaffirm our desire to participate in a social project which places at the heart of its action the necessary collective care for individual vulnerabilities, which recognizes the fundamental interdependence which binds human beings together, sick or not, old or not yet, at the end or at the very beginning of their life.