Life and death

The Indian constitution doesn’t guarantee anything – all “rights” can be suspended/ disregarded both in theory and practice. So nothing that happens in this country, including decisions by the various courts, should surprise anyone. Like the decision of the Supreme Court allowing a mentally retarded woman who was raped to continue the pregnancy—after a High Court ordered a termination.

The SC decision is right. What is wrong is that it was made “reluctantly” and on “emotional grounds,” meaning there was no rational basis for the same. The same courts deny abortions under the same law (MTPA) to those who bother with legalities, and decide otherwise in cases like the above.

Behind such absurdities lies the utter disregard for the “right to life.” From an ET article on assisted suicide/ euthanasia-

Opponents [of Santhara, fasting unto death] call it a breach of Constitution which guarantees the right to life but not death.

The right to life includes the right to make choices regarding such a life—smoking, eating, drinking, sleeping, flying, driving, marrying, having a baby (or aborting it)—and such a choice includes death. A right to life minus the right to make such choices is no longer a right, but a duty. Its like having the right to inhale, but not to exhale.

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  • Varuna  On July 25, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    I feel very strongly that the Supreme Court decision is wrong.Strangely enough the law allows mentally retarded women to have babies, but not mentally ill human beings. This shows an old bias against the mentally ill, which is a very grey area in any case. Mentally ill people often function perfectly well, particularly if the medication works for them. They can also be quite brilliant, lucid, reasonable, etc. A retarded person, on the other hand, is mentally a child. Yet, paradoxically, children, by law, cannot have babies, even when physically they are able to. Nobody would deny that this is correct. But someone who is mentally and in every other way a child is directed to have a baby even though she is incapable of looking after it. This is absurd. Children are fragile creatures. How is it that the law does not look at the child who will be born to this mentally-retarded woman. The kid has a father who is a rapist and a mother who is retarded. What kind of life are these parents gifting that poor kid? It’s very sad.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On July 25, 2009 at 9:23 pm

      The law shouldn’t exist in the first place. What happens now, post the SC judgment, would have happened if that were the case. Though ‘what happens to the kid’ is not a trivial question, that isn’t the main issue here. Its whether or not the state has the right to decide if someone—anyone—can or cannot have a baby, and then demand that its order be followed. The answer to that is a resounding ‘no, it doesn’t!’

  • you12  On July 26, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Sorry for hijacking the thread but this is a subject that has made me think for sometime and I haven’t really been able to find any proper literature about it, apart from a few articles linked below.

    If we talk about suicide of a healthy person, not someone who is terminally ill..

    The right to life includes the right to make choices regarding such a life—smoking, eating, drinking, sleeping, flying, driving, marrying, having a baby (or aborting it)—and such a choice includes death. A right to life minus the right to make such choices is no longer a right, but a duty. Its like having the right to inhale, but not to exhale.

    So do you support suicide for any reason? Surely a man has to have his freedom,but freedom and life are interlinked. Liberty can’t exist without life and especially considering the fact that suicide is a very irrational act, an act of despair and escape .I don’t think i would consider it moral. Of course criminalization of suicide is also equally stupid and I don’t advocate it but should society explicitly allow people to die if they “feel like it”?

    So the question is can suicide really be rational?
    And what tells of the society that values a mans right to self destruct over his life itself? A man who doesn’t value his own life, should his values be valued?

    My position is that since suicide is not really about freedom and is highly irrational ,it should not be explicitly allowed. this
    , this
    , this , and this helped in forming my position.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On July 28, 2009 at 11:49 pm

      # “So do you support suicide for any reason?”
      I support it when a person is no longer “free.” A terminal illness is a literal death sentence, and a painful one. There is no reason why, if one doesn’t want to bear the pain, one shouldn’t contemplate suicide in this case. Another case is when one loses physical freedom—one is caught up in an unbearable situation with no possibility of escape. Basically, the examples Thomas provides-

      Common examples are life in a torture-camp such as a gulag, or life with a terminal, highly debilitating, and highly painful illness.

      # “suicide is a very irrational act”
      # “So the question is can suicide really be rational?”
      In cases other than those mentioned above, the act would be irrational, purposeless.

      # “should society explicitly allow people to die if they “feel like it”?”
      “Allow”? And by the same standard, society should ban all irrational acts? I don’t think its society’s business—distributing licenses to engage in certain activities.

      # “A man who doesn’t value his own life, should his values be valued?”
      “Rights” are not conditional. They are not options that expire. They do not depend on what someone does or doesn’t do with his right. If a rich man gambles his wealth away, it is his right to do so. It may not be “right,” but it is “his” right. So society is irrelevant when it comes to such valuation of values.

      # “My position is that since suicide is not really about freedom and is highly irrational ,it should not be explicitly allowed.”
      You should rethink the same. Negative liberty is not about allowances, but about constraints. Its not about what others allow you to do, but what others are not allowed to do to you.

  • blr_p  On July 26, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    We discussed this same topic a yr back :)

  • peace  On July 26, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    …in anarchism, everyone gets freedom. hurray!

  • Varuna  On July 29, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Geek, who is to decide when it is right for a person to commit suicide? Frankly, i strongly believe that every individual has the right to kill himself if he so desires. Camus has written a fascinating book (The myth of Sisyphus) on the subject, about the relationship between an absurd world and suicide. It starts: There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.

    Suicide is most certainly not an irrational act. As Camus says (and he says so many wise things in this book): An act like this is prepared within the silence of the heart, as is a great work of art.

    Also this: killing yourself amounts to confessing. It is confessing that life is too much for you or that you do not understand it.

    The wonderful thing about this great book is the positive conclusion: Life might seem meaningless, yet it can still be worth living.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On August 1, 2009 at 10:31 pm

      # “who is to decide when it is right for a person to commit suicide?”
      Decide? The person himself, naturally. Ethics can only point out when such an act is right, and when it is not. The decision however must always lie with the individual in question.

      # “Suicide is most certainly not an irrational act.”
      “Rational” actions presuppose a process of reasoning. Someone jumping off a cliff just because he “felt like it” is not being rational. The act, here, is a suicide. But it is not rational.

      # “killing yourself amounts to confessing.”
      As I see it, Camus’ options are not the only ones. Some one can commit suicide while fully understanding what life is all about, and even when life is not “too much for [him].” As I have written somewhere, life is not merely the physical state of “being alive.” There is a qualitative aspect to it. If one feels his life fails to meet the standards—the circumstances I mention above—it is not unethical or immoral for him to put an end to it. Here, life is not “too much for [him]”—he’s not giving up on life when it is still possible for him to do something about it. He is only putting an end to what he considers to be a meaningless existence.

      # “Life might seem meaningless, yet it can still be worth living.”
      It can’t. “Worth” is a value judgment. So is “meaningless.” If life is meaningless—there is nothing in life which one cares for, and thus strives for—that is a confession. Such a life is definitely not worth living. Someone who lives in such a state does so probably because of the fear of death (which does not imply the desire to live), or, and this is more likely, because death is just as meaningless as life. Why disturb the status quo?

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On July 30, 2009 at 1:33 am

    live and let die – that’s aristotle’s philosophy. i never seem to get through the hypocrisy of absolute freedom but “with conditions”. though i wonder if a retard isn’t qualified to enter into a contract then how is she qualified to have a child? then there’s the fact that she’s was raped and what sane person would agree to give birth to a rape baby? the verdict in other words would mean that an insane person is mentally competent.

    im not surprised. the whole fu(king constitution is contradictory and so are philosophers. adding conditions to make it work doesn’t make it right. instead it shows your hypocrisy.

    but hey, that’s how it goes, doesn’t it? it’s the lawyers who make the verdicts. a right, well experienced lawyer can get you whatever verdict you want. isn’t that the global scenario? judges too, 250k and you can get the judges in pune dancing to your feet.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On August 1, 2009 at 10:47 pm

      # “absolute freedom but ‘with conditions’.”
      What conditions? Ethics doesn’t lay down conditions. Politics does. And the politics of laissez faire only lays down one – no coercion.

      # “though i wonder if a retard isn’t qualified to enter into a contract then how is she qualified to have a child?”
      The problem is not with the act of entering into contract. Its with enforcing the terms of the same. Just like no one stops (by force) the retard from signing a contract, no one has the right to stop him/ her from conceiving/ giving birth to a baby.

      # “what sane person would agree to give birth to a rape baby?”
      Certain sections of the “pro-life” movement. The lady who would have been within a heart beat of the presidency if McCain had won, says-

      I believe that no matter what mistakes we make as a society, we cannot condone ending an innocent’s life.

      # “the verdict in other words would mean that an insane person is mentally competent.”
      The judgment was not, and should not be, on mental competence. It was on the “right” of the individual in question to not have an abortion forced on her—by law.

      # “adding conditions to make it work doesn’t make it right. instead it shows your hypocrisy.”
      I would repeat what I said at the beginning. My conditions on suicide are ethical ones, not political ones. Politics deals with the use of force. And neither suicide nor abortion should be stopped (carried out too, in case of the latter) by force.

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