“Why is light given to him who suffers, And life to the bitter of soul, Who long for death, but there is none, And dig for it more than for hidden treasures, Who rejoice greatly, And exult when they find the grave?…” Job 3:20-22

If the choice of assisted suicide existed in Singapore, what would its take-up rate be? In other words, how many of our people are longing for an early death?

For this post, I shall focus on defining assisted suicide.

The subject of assisted dying is an intensely complicated one. There are many facets to it with very few ready answers. The most common abstraction used to represent the core principle in the debate on assisted dying has been the “right to die”. This is a compendious concept which encapsulates the competing notions of “sanctity of life” on the one hand and “freedom of choice” on the other. Curiously, it suggests that we are at liberty to die, just as we are at liberty to live.

Taken literally, the “right to die” is a misnomer – we are all obliged to die. Death is the one thing in life that is utterly inevitable and irresistible. It is the most fundamental and universal of obligations. It is perhaps a question of whether there is an option for the early termination of our lease on life.

This leads us to an important set of definitions related to the various modes by which accelerated dying can be effected.  Euthanasia entails the “termination of the life of a patient by someone other than the patient himself.” A working definition of voluntary euthanasia as it is commonly understood is: “An action that results in the immediate merciful killing by a doctor of a sick and suffering patient who has consented to this action. It is the deliberate and very humane ending of a patient’s life to prevent further suffering… and rests on two fundamental principles: autonomy and mercy.” This can be initiated through lethal injections or drugs. Injections take place at the patient’s request but it is the physician who executes the final act. This is thus to be distinguished from assisted suicide, where the patient performs the final act and causes his or her own death.

Therefore, my future posts on assisted suicide will primarily focus on the context of voluntary euthanasia and will explore into the nature of rights, the interaction between law and science, and the potential implications of the legalisation of assisted suicide.