The Right to Die – Article by Martin van der Kroon

The Right to Die – Article by Martin van der Kroon

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Martin van der Kroon


The U.S. Transhumanist Party is, among many other things, concerned with life extension, health, and in general the well-being of people. If life extension can be stretched to virtual immortality, that would be even more amazing, but should it be mandatory?

This post is my personal view, and I have proposed a Plank regarding this which has been added to the Exposure Period for Platform Vote #5I’m not trying to convince people, but I would like to open the discussion on a topic that we may reasonably call controversial.

The idea of immortality is a powerful and ancient one, and I too would be tempted to take the opportunity to become immortal, or live far beyond the scope of what we now consider “normal”. Not everyone shares this ideal though, and I think that is their right to not want this.

Who doesn’t want to live forever?

That is an interesting, but maybe also a bit of a naive question. I can imagine that some religious people, might at some point, even if they have enjoyed a longer life, wish to join the creator they believe in. Is it our place to deny them the chance to meet their God, regardless of whether this entity exists or not?

However, let us set religious aspects aside. Perhaps over the course of a very long life, one might have accomplished everything he or she wanted to do, seen everything there is to see, read, studied, written books, and so forth. What if a perpetual boredom sets in? Perhaps closer to home, we have all experienced things that are unpleasant, and some of those may be traumas. Perhaps carrying several lifetimes of traumas could give someone a sense that it is time to rest. 

I’m quite confident that there will be amazing things to see and do in the future, and that our skills and expertise in supporting people in any way we can, including with regard to mental health issues, will become much better. In the end it boils down to one’s personal freedom to have agency over themselves, as long as they do not hurt others in the process.

The loss of a loved one does in fact hurt, often a lot. The grief can be devastating, and no one ought to suffer this pain. The question here is: Is it acceptable to take someone’s agency away to spare others from having to grieve?

Currently we concern ourselves with death penalties, and ‘life-in-prison’ sentences, but likewise, ‘imprisonment to a sentence to live’ might not be the Utopian ideal we think it is.

Although I think it would be great if everyone could quite literally live happily and healthily ever after, I cannot speak for others, nor is it my place to decide or limit whether someone else wishes to die. I think that a wish to stop living is about as personal as it can get.

We are horrified when someone’s life is taken away by someone else, we should be equally horrified if we would allow the choice to die to be taken away by someone else.

Of course I’m not supporting that people commit suicide. I think, first and foremost, that people, when confronted by such thoughts of ending their lives, should seek help wherever they can – be it from family, a good friend, or a professional. If you are reading this, and you have thoughts of suicide for whatever reason, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline wants to help and support you when you most need it!

The right to decide on the continuation of one’s own life may be counter to many people’s views, but it is an aspect we should consider and think about regardless of the conclusion we may draw from it.

Martin van der Kroon is the Director of Recruitment of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

3 thoughts on “The Right to Die – Article by Martin van der Kroon

  1. Hi Martin,

    I’d actually written an article on this very subject, which was published on IEET. If you don’t mind, I’m going to paste it below as a comment.

    Let me know your thoughts on it:

    https://ieet.org/index.php/IEET2/more/9754

    On November 1, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard took medication to end her life. This wasn’t an act of cowardice, nor due to some psychological condition. She ended her life because she wanted to die on her own terms, rather than suffer the eventually-fatal torment of terminal brain cancer. Her ability to legally commit suicide – or what she referred to it as “death with dignity” – was due to the state of Oregon’s “Death With Dignity Act.”

    As a result, the entire nation is starting to talk about the right-to-die, or what is also commonly referred to as physician-assisted suicide. This isn’t even a new idea, either. Indeed, this very topic was heavily debated and talked about throughout the country nearly 20 years ago after Dr. Jack Kevorkian was arrested for providing voluntary euthanasia for his terminal patients.

    Dr. Kevorkian became a revolutionary to one section of the population, and the devil incarnate to the other. In fact, to this day, only 4 states out of 50 have officially legalized physician-assisted suicide (Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Montana), following Dr. Kevorkian’s footsteps in providing the moral alternative for terminally ill patients.

    But the tides could be turning in Dr. Kevorkian’s – and, yes, even Brittany Maynard’s – favor, as Brittany became the face and voice of a modern day “Death with Dignity.” Because of her sacrifice, in the coming years more and more terminally ill people may very well be legally allowed to die on their own terms.

    So where should Transhumanists and Longevity advocates stand on this particular topic? At first glance, one would assume that we Transhumanists would oppose suicide, given its clear conflict with that of longevity – a cause in which most Transhumanists are dedicated to. After all, one of our goals is to achieve indefinite life extension, or as Dr. Aubrey de Grey calls it negligible senescence. And for someone to commit suicide would be to give up on life – an act contrary to that of a Transhumanist.

    But then this assumption is erroneous, for it subsequently bases itself on another false assumption: that Transhumanists seek immortality.

    We’ve heard it, time and again, by anti-Transhumanist intellectuals and otherwise. Read it throughout the web, from newspapers to blogs. We Transhumanists are on a fool’s journey to achieve immortality. And yet, speaking as a fellow Transhumanist, I must come as a bearer of bad news to them: we do not seek immortality. In fact, immortality is a red herring of what we’re actually hoping to achieve – indefinite life extension.

    But what is the difference? If life is indefinitely extended, have you not achieved immortality? Not quite. The idea of immortality is the incapability of death, for if someone is capable of dying, they’re deemed mortal. In other words, immortality is a very authoritarian bond over the human will to make choices of their own. With indefinite life extension – the ability to remain young and healthy; to not age – we’re giving each individual the right to decide how long they wish to live, with the subsequent right to live indefinitely if they so wish.

    Unfortunately, many anti-Transhumanists and anti-longevity thinkers refuse to comprehend this simple understanding, and instead criticize indefinite life extension with nonsensical justifications – overpopulation, becoming bored, loss of resources, and so on. Either they adhere to neo-Luddism or Malthusian logical fallacies.

    ​Which brings us back to the topic of suicide. For Dr. Kevorkian, whenever a patient was medically diagnosed with a terminal illness, he knew there were only two options said patient could opt for: either they remained alive long enough to suffer until death relieved them of their pain, or they choose to die on their own terms, rather than suffer needlessly. Death was no longer dictated by a person’s biological clock, but instead became a choice for each individual to decide.

    And yet 46 states of the U.S. maintain a policy of criminalizing physician-assisted suicide. For Transhumanists and Longevity advocates, this should be very worrisome. After all, our quest to achieve indefinite life extension is merely an added chapter to Dr. Kevorkian’s book of right-to-die. We’re simply adding “-or-live” to the end of it. Speaking as a Transhumanist myself, despite my advocacy of indefinite life extension and support for anti-aging research, I also support right-to-die.

    This is something in which all of us Transhumanists and Longevity advocates must comprehend: if we support the right of individuals to decide how long they wish to live, rather than be dictated by their biological clocks, then we must equally support the right of individuals to decide when they wish to die.

    In essence, the goal of a Transhumanist and Longevity advocate is to ensure that all future deaths are suicides.

    “If you don’t have liberty and self-determination, you got nothing. That’s what this country’s built on and this is the ultimate self-determination: to determine when and how you’re gonna die when you’re suffering.” – Dr. Jack Kevorkian

    1. Hi B.J.,

      Thank you for your comment. I think your article is spot on! You are correct on the immortality part as well. I hadn’t intended it in the superman or deity type fashion, rather as a more colloquial ‘indefinite life extension’.

      Perhaps as Transhumanists, we should not only strive to transcend our physical state of limitations, but also transcend the stigmas we face today, such as being able to talk about one’s wish to die with dignity, and perhaps accepting this person ought to be allowed to act upon it.

      1. I couldn’t agree more. This should definitely extend upon our quest for indefinite life extension. This is about uplift individuals to decide their own fate, on their own terms.

        We can’t talk about giving people the right to choose life, while at the same time taking away their right to decide when they wish to die.

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