Human rights are everywhere. They underpin our daily freedoms and give us the confidence to live as free thinking human beings.
In case you missed it, I wrote about where the idea of our human rights come from. The underpinning belief of all human rights is that every human being has equal worth and inherent dignity along with equal rights. This is summed up in Article 1 of the Declaration.
Over the years, we have become so used to these rights we enjoy that sometimes we forget why they were ever written in the first place. As 20-something’s living in the UK, we struggle to believe that the world was ever different to what it is today. And it seems as though the rest of society has succumbed to take our rights for granted by failing to remember the centuries of real strife and struggle to establish them. Recent generations have started to modernise and change the way we decide what our rights are.
Because of this, we see some new “rights” emerging.
The true nature of human rights – that we all have equal worth and dignity – is sadly starting to be forgotten.
This is made quite clear in the ‘Right to Die’ debate which has raged on for the past number of years.
The right to die is the belief that a human being is entitled to commit suicide with the help of a doctor should they wish to be killed. In practice, this looks like state legalised assisted suicide; a practice whereby someone is given lethal drugs to end his or her life if they fulfil certain criteria.
The practice of the right to die effectively says that if you have a certain life situation, you should choose to end your life in order to stop your suffering, and end the emotional burden on your family and friends.
Are we starting to rank our worth?
A piece in the Economist last month, written by supporters of assisted dying (suicide), revealed some even more worrying beliefs. The writer explains that:
“The criterion for assisting dying should be a patient’s assessment of his suffering, not the nature of his illness.”
And later on…
“children facing imminent death from terminal diseases should, in consultation with their parents and doctors, have the right to be spared their last agonising hours.”
According to this a patient’s medical condition should not be the deciding factor but a patient’s assessment of their suffering. Would a broken leg, burst eardrum or appendicitis therefore make someone qualify? In all of these, the suffering can be fairly high if the condition is not terminal. Where do we draw the line?
And if a child is diagnosed with cancer or suffers sudden heart failure, should their life – which has equal worth and dignity as their parents-also be cut short?
How does this explain that we all have equal worth and dignity?
Assisted dying appears to be a choice, but is it a right?
It can be difficult to see how the ‘right to die’ fits in with our human rights and the more I look into it, the more it seems to promote the stance that some lives are worth less than others. Therefore in these cases, assisted suicide is seen as “more acceptable”.
But dignity is not based on what we are like on the outside, but on who we have been made to be like on the inside. Our dignity comes from within. It is not conditional to our physical health, our age and our mental capacity!
Our human dignity and worth is unconditional.
And that is why we have equal rights – because our worth can never be downgraded.
This must always be the foundation for a human right.