The Right of The People

The United States is a nation built upon the idea of freedom; freedom of religion, freedom to life, freedom to liberty, and freedom to property. With freedom so wide and all-encompassing, shouldn’t that freedom extend to an individual’s choice to the lack thereof? That right to end one’s life has always been highly controversial, perhaps even more so when it comes to ending an elderly life. The complexity of end of life decisions has gotten more confusing with time, being embroiled by the increased effect of clinical depression on the elderly, attempts to dissuade geronticide, and advanced directives regarding end of life decisions.

In the end, the interpretation of end of life choices for the elderly isn’t up to us, it’s up to them.

The abilities and potential of the elderly population have always been underestimated. In all aspects of American life, from mass media and television to politics and healthcare, the elderly are always portrayed as weak, incapable, and burdensome.

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Ironically, that is the exact opposite of how most elderly people feel. Perhaps it is generalizations like these that has enabled a false narrative about elderly people and created the idea of “burdensome” end of life decisions in general. This idea of weakness in the elderly has also enabled a murky, underdeveloped system for supporting elderly persons with full autonomy from ending their lives. According to a study conducted by a Cambridge City over-75s Cohort, the elderly population are open and willing to have end of life conversations, especially about suicide, euthanasia, and dying peacefully but are reserved about sharing their thoughts.

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The fear is that they will be thought of as weak or burdensome, and that the impact this conversation could negatively affect their caretakers, who is usually family. To clarify, the problem with end of life conversations is that no one wants to talk about it. There has been several landmark cases that have increased visibility of this issue. In 1990, the Supreme Court issued a ruling for Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health. The highest court determined that the courts may interfere a family’s choice to discontinue life-saving treatment (in which they are the guardian) and ask for “clear and convincing evidence” to protect the life of those who cannot help themselves. This landmark decision greatly influenced end of life decisions, as it created oversight into what was often seen as a family matter.

It also started a conversation about how to protect the elderly community in case of malevolent family members. The American people have misconceptions about the elderly community, which has compromised how we as a people can best care for the elderly. But the solution to that issue is clear. In order to compromise, listen, and respect our elders, we must allow them to make their own decisions. This includes, of course, their right to end their own lives if they so choose. For Argument One of the most prevalent conditions that plagues the elderly population is clinical depression. Compared to young people, the rates of depression is lower in the elderly. However, the elderly do lead in terms of clinical depression. Clinical depression is a more complex, and difficult illness to treat.

Perhaps it is even more of an issue because clinical depression in the elderly is caused by problems that cannot be solved. The clinical depression in the elderly is caused by the increasing need for dependence on others. The elderly population need much more assistance as they get older in everyday tasks, including waking, cooking, changing clothes, and using the restroom. For simple tasks like this, losing the ability for self-care affects the self-esteem of older people and causes them to lose confidence in themselves. Of course, this issue only gets worse with time, to the point where caretakers need to devote all of their time to aiding them. Clinical depression isn’t the only illness that plagues the older generation. Chronic conditions affects 85% of elderly people, and 60% have two chronic diseases.

Chronic diseases are often detrimental to the health of elderly patients. They result in increases hospital visits and increases fatalities in the hospital. One of the main concerns of the elderly about passing on is the fear of dying in the hospital. The preference is high for passing away at home, surrounded by loved ones and family. Without respecting the elderly, it is impossible to respect their wishes. Clearly, not allowing the elderly to end their lives on their own terms will force them to the alternative, which is dying of chronic disease in a hospital, which is unpeaceful and against their wishes. With death being a sure factor, allowing the elderly the ability to choose how to end their lives for themselves is a gift that everyone should be privy to.

Against Argument As previously mentioned in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, the government has been encouraging oversight into issues of euthanasia and end of life decisions. One of the greatest fears if euthanasia, assisted suicide, and if other end of life decisions is allowed is that certain persons will use this to their advantage and engage in geronticide. However, this feeds into the idea that the elderly are vulnerable and weak. A change needs to be initiated so that the elderly take the reigns on end of life decisions. Advance directives can be promoted to give the elderly the autonomy to make a decision that is theirs alone. And although the elderly may not have the physical strength they previously had, they are still mentally capable to discerning what result they’d like in the end. The key, however, is being able to discern mental capacity.

For the elderly who are not found to be mentally sound, this decision should remain with their immediate guardian. Conclusion The right to choose to live is with the people. For oversight to be present and rules to be made to prevent this standardizes a process that cannot be standardized. For the elderly, the right to end their life is a difficult one to make. However, if their circumstances fall into place, society should show good faith and allow the elderly to make this decision. The nation was built upon a system where choices regarding autonomy and self is of our foundation. In allowing for this choice to be with the people, the elderly would be gaining a right that should have always been theirs.

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The Right of The People. (2022, Jan 06). Retrieved from

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