Renowned Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming (朱銘) last month died of apparent suicide at the age of 85 after a prolonged illness. It came after former sports commentator Fu Da-jen (傅達仁) traveled to Switzerland in 2018 to end his life through physician-assisted suicide. Even celebrities with great access to resources are denied the right to a dignified death in Taiwan, so the public must face an even harder situation.
Those who oppose the legalization of assisted suicide emphasize two points: First, they worry that some families could pressure sick relatives to be euthanized to avoid caring for them, or that some people would choose to die so as not to burden their families. Second, it goes against some people’s religious beliefs.
However, both are hard to justify in law.
Euthanasia laws in many countries require professionals such as doctors to act as a “neutral third party” to assess a case, so it does not entirely depend on the will of the person seeking assistance or their family.
Ju’s and Fu’s cases show that the lack of regulations over assisted suicide can result in people taking their lives anyway, which is not a solution.
It is not a choice between pro-euthanasia and anti-euthanasia, as in reality it is the difference between regulated euthanasia and suicide.
As for religious beliefs, the separation of church and state is a fundamental principle of the Constitution. Religion cannot be used to deny people the right to make decisions about their lives.
If the government wants to restrict people’s power to make decisions about their own lives, it should bear the “burden of proof,” and should be reviewed based on constitutional standards.
Chen Chih-hsiung is dean of National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University School of Law.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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