The desire to live

In man's earlier history it was quite common to place any baby that didn't look right behind a bush to die. To do this simply because they have an extra toe, or some minor malformed part seems shocking in modern times. Having a cosmetic problem is one thing, but not ever being able to look after oneself is a different matter. Some may worry about the consequences of having a disproportionate number of individuals that will never reach independence. If the number of those that need twenty-four-hour care is very high, it would place an unsustainable strain on the rest. This can lead us to consider what the priorities are in our society. This along with the potential for having to artificially inseminate ever greater numbers and be too reliant on caesareans can make us wonder what will happen in times of global crisis.

Whether we label them as different, defective, handicapped or whatever, many appear to be as happy and if not more so than the average individual. They show a desire to live. Having a desire to live is key. Whether it is a new-born or one with low verbal communicative abilities, the inability to speak doesn’t detract from their desire to live or die. Many indications can be read from the body language that they express.

The desire to live can come to the fore after a life-changing event. Maybe to do more and live life to the full. Having a desire to live is everything. Personal, individual yet universal. This desire may wane occasionally. Some begin to have suicidal thoughts when life becomes a real struggle. Alternatively, we may have a wish to leave early because of major physical or mental deterioration. Do we give people the right to live and the right to die?

If murder became legal the murder rate would rise for sure but having a right to life does not stop us killing one another. The laws stop some murders and take murderers off the streets. However, the majority are not hesitant about killing someone just because they are afraid of the repercussions or fearful of any punishment metered out after. We do not refrain from killing simply because we accept someone’s right to live. It is more down to the ability to recognise that another person wants to live. We empathise and grasp their desire to live in the same way we want to live also. We see the fear and distress on someone’s face when they are threatened. We read the signals that indicate that we want to be left unharmed. Only the minority, the psychopaths don't care.

If you appreciate someone’s desire to live, you might also be appreciative of someone's desire to die. When life becomes an absolute chore with each day getting progressively worse, this desire easily evaporates. If the balance of pain and reward swings markedly towards the suffering end of the scale, then one may not want to have to tolerate it anymore. We can have less appetite for life when 23 hours of the day are grim. However, if there is any doubt then the ignorance paradox will imply that euthanasia is not the course to take.

The idea of ‘do onto others as you would have others do onto you’ is a self-centred way of looking at things. I am never keen about twisting and changing sayings but in this case, there is some merit in doing so. “Do onto others the way they want to be done onto.” Our actions are often guided by what we think is right based on the choices we would make for ourselves. What you like does not always correspond to what other people like. You may love to have grapes brought to you when you are ill, other people may prefer something different. Maybe a banana or a big bar of chocolate. Have we properly consulted what the other person really wants? The notion goes far beyond selecting a fruit and reaches into serious decisions, but that example is an easy way to illustrate the principle. It is about respecting the desires of others rather than focusing on our own individual wants and wishes.

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