On Sunday, Nov. 3, Tim Bowers took his last breath.
The 32-year-old avid hunter was expecting a baby with his new wife when a hunting accident rendered him paralyzed, according to CBS News. While Bowers was hooked up to life support, doctors informed his family that he would need a ventilator to breathe for the rest of his life. At best, Bowers would be able to sit up, but life as he knew it would be over.
Bowers’ family decided to take him out of sedation to ask if he wanted to continue to live. His answer was no, so he was taken off of life support and died a few hours later.
Bowers’ decision to end his life has reignited the controversy surrounding the idea of euthanasia. Every few years, a case comes along that pits those holding out hope for a miracle against the skeptics, the faithful against the practical. Oftentimes, these cases see parents pitted against spouses, or children against step-parents. In 2005, Terri Schiavo died after a lengthy battle between her husband and her parents over whether or not to continue her life support. Schiavo was living as a “vegetable,” unable to move and receiving nutrition through a feeding tube. Her husband wanted to pull the plug while her parents fought in court to keep their daughter alive.
In Bower’s case, however, the decision was not left to his family. Instead, Bowers was in control and chose what he wanted to do — a right that every person in the United States should have.
The topic is certainly a hot-button issue that many feel passionately about. After all, a human life is involved. Many times, those who oppose euthanasia claim that people have “so much to live for!” or that “life shouldn’t be wasted.” And while these are good points, it is imperative to remember that no one has the right to speak for another person. One cannot turn to the person next to them and declare that he or she should not be in control of his or her own life. When brain trauma is not a factor, the choice to live or die must be left to the individual.
Living the rest of life unable to move, breathe, talk or hold one’s child sounds like a daunting prospect. Of course, there are many people living with disabilities who enjoy life to the fullest every day. But then again, there are plenty of people who do not wish to experience life as such. To some, a life spent in a hospital, closed off from the outside world, doesn’t seem like a life at all.
In Mar Adentro, the 2004 film based on the life of quadriplegic Ramón Sampedro, Sampedro spends his days at the mercy of his friends and family, physically incapable of caring for himself in any way. Samperdo decides to fight for his right to euthanasia, and when asked why, he replies: “I want to die because I feel that a life for me in this state has no dignity. I understand that other quadriplegics may take offense to my saying there’s no dignity in this, but I’m not trying to judge anyone. Who am I to judge those who choose life? So don’t judge me or anyone who wants to help me die.”
Sampedro ultimately found a way to die with the help of his friends and family, ingeniously devising a plan that would keep them safe from any legal repercussions. But Sampedro should not have had to fight for his right. He saw his disability as a cage, a reminder of a life that he would never be able to fully enjoy.
Life is a gift and people should use it as they wish. If a person chooses to spend his or her life hooked up to a ventilator or in a wheelchair, their wishes should be granted. But it is not the legal system’s job to force someone to live that way as well.
Society needs to realize that it is never appropriate to tell any person how to live his or her life. Everyone should have the ability to choose the right path for themselves — even when that choice is between life or death.
Sheridan Watson is a senior majoring in critical studies. She is also a managing editor at the Daily Trojan.
Follow Sheridan on Twitter @IAmSheridanW