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  • I've read almost everything written by Robert Heinlein, and was especially intrigued by the opening demand of Lazarus Long (aka Woodrow Wilson Smith) in the novel Time Enough For Love.

    "Where is my suicide button?!"

    I think I was close to twenty two the first time I read it. The concept was intriguing. Not only did you have the right to take your own life, but there was a government sanctioned way to do it. Fascinating.

    Now, you have to understand that people lived a lot longer in these fictional stories, so a suicide button was a reasonable way of saying 'enough'. But taking the science fiction out of the equation, it still leaves us with an interesting conundrum. Should we be allowed to say 'enough'?

    I'm not advocating a Kevorkian plan of assisted suicide, although it is done more times that we care to admit. Dr. Kevorkian was simply politically incorrect and silenced by the medical community via a little prompting to various Right to Life groups who see allowing people to take their own lives as some sort of implied consent to abortion, which is ridiculous, of course, but we won't go there at the moment.

    The fact of the matter is that patients suffering terminal conditions who have endured all they care to are allowed to die, and are often assisted by their physicians in one way or the other. The AMA tiptoes around it, but they know it happens, and so do any of us who have had a family member pass on, even when there might have been a way to extend their life.

    But how about a person like me? Reasonably healthy, presumably sane (although writers may not quite qualify, let's face it, you have to be a little off to actually believe anyone has any interest in what you have to say), and emotionally stable. After all, it's not like the government should have control over my existence, is it? While death and taxes may be the only two sure things in life, would my decision to not pay taxes over the entire length of my life expectancy be all that damaging to society?

    Forget about the religious ramifications, although they would be mighty, I assure you. Every Christian church out there would fight you tooth and nail over the potential loss of tithes. I could even see some of them hiring lawyers to sue the estate for the remaining tithes they might have received had the individual not self-terminated. But allowing an individual to self-terminate would go against every possible principle of the faith, namely the sanctity of life. Suicide is taking a life, and that is a sin that guarantees you a reserved table in Hell, according to the Catholics. Smith, party of one, your table is ready.

    I imagine there are laws against suicide in this country, but I have to wonder exactly how they are enforced. I mean, are they going to stuff your remains and make you fill in for a mannequin at the local Macy's? We hereby sentence you to 50 years in the Men's department, wearing last year's suits.

    All kidding aside, is your life your own, to do with as you please? If I were prone to a hereditary condition where I knew my demise would be long, slow, and painful, I might opt for the more dignified choice of simply ending it all. But knowing me, I would think about it and say to myself, what if they find a cure tomorrow, and I missed it? Maybe I'll give it a, a, a year.

    How about if I just decide I really don't care to be a part of it anymore? Or maybe I've blown it, I'm going to end up on public aide, and I really don't want to suffer that humiliation. Or maybe I just don't like people.

    So what exactly are the parameters for allowing someone to commit suicide? When do we tell a person "You are in charge of your life, as long as you don't prematurely end it?". Who gets to make that decision?

    In the end, I do.

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