Dear Dr. Baehr,

In John Locke’s writings, it was called a natural right. In the Declaration of Independence, it was called the pursuit of happiness. In Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points, it was called the “self-determination” of people. And in the medical world, it is called patient autonomy, a concept you Dr. Baehr don’t mention once in your article. The scathing difference between the gas chambers of Auschwitz and Dachau and the hospital bed of Million Dollar Baby is that the Nazis never asked the opinion of the person about to die. No one ordered that girl to demand death. No one even suggested it to her. She made the decision that she would rather die than live the life that she, in her eyes, was being forced to live. She made the decision of her own free will and should not in any way be compared to the exterminations perpetrated by the Nazis.
You write that “love should never trump conscience,” but will you not acknowledge that in some moments, when peoples heartstrings are truly strained, love and conscience do work to the same ends. Just as Clint Eastwood’s character comes to realize, in his situation, love and conscience in the end tell him that Hilary Swank has made a decision about how she wants her life to play out, and that he had no right to interfere with her self determination, her pursuit of relative happiness. And neither you or I can say truthfully that one person cannot choose to make that decision. Sure people can say that they don’t feel it is right. And to them I say, “That’s great, then don’t do it!” Those people who think it is wrong can say that, there is no problem with that. But they should never EVER try to force their beliefs, no matter how strongly they feel about them, upon other people by way of lobbying or legislation. I can say that I hate anyone who has their pet fixed because it is cruelty to animals, but I wouldn’t go around trying to bomb vet clinics just because I feel strongly about the issue. After all, you are killing potential life. But that’s a different issue.
People choose to give up kidneys, people choose to climb Mount Everest, and people choose to end their lives. The only difference is, your religion probably doesn’t care if you climb Everest.