Assisted Suicide

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Excerpt from British Documentary”Right to Die: The Suicide Tourist

A recent documentary about assisted suicide will be shown on the British telly, but it will be unique in that it will show a man who is terminally ill actually commit suicide and die. As you might expect this has sparked controversy.

The film follows Craig Ewert, a 59 year old British professor who suffered from  motor neurone disease (MND), a disease that attacks the neurons and cripples the person, causing them to have to live on a ventilator. Mr. Ewert decided to travel to a Swiss facility in order to take a lethal cocktail to end his life, after making peace with his family, and he allowed the process to be filmed for this broadcast. It is a crime to assist a suicide in the UK, which necessitated the trip to Switzerland.

This was a choice the man made, after suffering with the disease for some time, unable to take care of himself, and faced with the prospect of a miserable existence and a burden to his family. The controversy, as you again might expect, comes from people who don’t believe in assisted suicide, as if it were something you can form a belief about.

I recognize that this is a touchy subject, because of the circumstances surrounding terminal illness. The terminally ill are often depressed at the prospect of what lies ahead, and in such a depressive state, could be influenced by others to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily consider if healthy. Of course, if they were healthy, the depressive prospect wouldn’t be before them, so it’s understandable that suicide might be an acceptable choice.

Personally, I would want to have that choice. I would not want to have the choice taken from me by someone who doesn’t know me, can’t understand the circumstances, and who has prejudged the matter without such knowledge. If sufficient safeguards are in place to ensure a sound and reasonable decision on the patient’s part, then he or she should be allowed to take his or her life. Actually, I would probably fear the decision of a religious person more than someone like me, who doesn’t believe in an afterlife. I know that this life is all there is, so I would certainly have to be at wits end before I chose to voluntarily end it. A theist might not think that way.

As a humanist, it seems to me that human life is sacrosanct, but my life is still mine, and no one else’s. Others should have no right to tell me what I should or should not do with my body, especially if their beliefs are infused with their religion.  The final say should be mine.

I’m curious to know how others feel about this.

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21 thoughts on “Assisted Suicide

  1. Disgusting. The controversy, not the deed. Quite a world it would be if people stopped imposing their shit on others, eh? It’s beyond me how one groups desire to impose hardship(s) on others ever gets to the level of a controversy. It should never rise above absurdity.

  2. I really rather not think about it, because it’s extremely depressing to think of what might bring people to voluntarily want to die, but yeah, I think at least the terminally and horribly painfully ill should be given the choice, but I also think they should not only think hard about it, but also take some mandatory consultation (government funded, of course) before making that choice. When you’re in pain, all you can think about is wanting to end it, so you might not think rationally. With depressed individuals (and I know some myself), the desire to commit suicide is, in fact, part of the disease, so obviously they shouldn’t have the right to commit suicide, that would be a tragic, pointless, and frankly, evil waste of life. Letting people with depression kill themselves is basically letting “nature do it’s course” and simply to allow the poor soul to destroy his body because he doesn’t know any better.

    So yeah, I think they should have a choice, but I also don’t think it’s very simple as to who will have that choice. Completely healthy people should have it right away, if they’re just unhappy with what they have and what they turned out to be, but people facing excruciating pain? I think they should have the choice, but I don’t think people should stand aside and let them make a choice like that without giving them some solid consult first.

    I realize that it’s pretty difficult to ask that, and I’m betting people who want to kill themselves will do it anyway, so I think I’m willing to be flexible on the “mandatory” part and even take it back – but I at least hope it’ll be optional. Wanting to end your life is probably the most important decision anyone makes.

  3. I’m starting into that stage of life where the accumulation of things spells the end.

    One of three things will take me out: a stroke (hopefully immediatly fatal), spontanious hemmorage (sorry, spelling Nazis), or the cancer that’s got me. I’ve survived a lot, but my own body is going to do me in.

    It’s melanoma, and it’s spread. So, it’s like a glider, you descend, catch a draft, and ascend, but never get back to where you were before. Then you go lower again and the cycle repeats itself. And I am, of course, aging, anyway.

    I go to the plastic surgery clinic once a year, and with the cancer clinic and that you get an idea of what real pain is. So far I’m rather lucky. I see some people who are on the brink of as much as they can stand in both places, and I can’t say as I’d blame them if they said, “Show’s over” and walked out of the movie. Maybe I will, too.

    How much should you stand to satisfy society’s ideal of what you should suffer? How much of your family’s resourses and time should you demand for your problem?

    Questions, questions.

  4. I hope my family follows my wishes and ends my life if I my brain is damaged to the point where I’m no longer there or if I’m in enough pain that I ask them to let me go. In any case I don’t see as it’s anyone’s decision but my own.

  5. Since de-converting over a year ago, I’ve done an entire 180 on this issue. Not only do I not want to kept alive on artificial nutrition, hydration, or a vent, but I’m thinking I’m going to donate every organ I can to boot.

    For those who suffer the depression and hopelessness of a terminal illness, I have to believe that some, if not most, of the hopelessness is spurred on by the lack of control. How much more so if you can’t even decide for yourself to end it all?

    I wonder if simply recognizing the right to the choice might, in an of itself, help people cope by putting them back in charge. You’re always free to CHOOSE to live, which I think has to be empowering.

    Get those Living Wills in order, folks.

  6. I find it ironic that we think nothing of “putting pets to sleep” to spare them misery, but expect human beings to endure the intolerable until “God takes them home in His good time.” We have more compassion for other species than for our own.

    I hope that I never have to face this decision for myself, or have to help a beloved friend or family member with it. If I do, though, my priority is to think about the quality of one’s life, to celebrate a life well lived and to do everything possible to allow one to die with some semblance of dignity.

  7. There was a chaplain I remember who used to admonish wounded men in agony to offer their “suffering to god”, as this alleged entity would smile upon a reciporcation for “his” agony on the cross. Demonstrations of discomfort were signs of being a pussy.

    His jeep turned over, he had a back injury, and he wanted something very different than the fortitude he demanded of others. He wanted drugs, dammit, and he wanted ’em RIGHT F***ING NOW”!

    It seems to me that the people who are most afraid of death in the oncology department are people who really didn’t live in the first place.

  8. Sarge, do you know Nietzsche’s demon story? Why he chose a demon, I don’t know, but nevermind, Basically, imagine a demon comes to you and says that when you die you will relive your life in perpetuity. The question is, would you consider that a blessing or a curse? Naturally, if you never really lived, it would definitely be a curse.

    I’m an organ donor, although I wonder if my giant sized organs will fit in most people who will need them. Also, I plan on living for a long time to spite my enemies (I’ll be on that Smucker’s jar one day), so they may not be worth much once I’m done with them.

  9. Read David Humes essay on suicide.It may be well over 200 yrs old,but,it’s as relevant today as it ever was and ever will be. Free will and the right to choose are NOT a religious concepts,they are the right of every human being,they define us.

  10. Philly, there are some parts I’d rather skip, like every moment I spent in school. I envision hell as being perpetually in a classroom.

    Some of the bad things, looking back, are what shaped me, that I learned the most from. Odd, really.

    Me? My body is going to science, and I guess that I WILL wind up in my form of “hell” after all. At least physically. My body will be used for research and my skeleton will be retained for study. Soooo, for as long as the school and my calcarious parts are in mutual existance, I’ll be in school. And, my father will have been correct beyond his wildest dreams; when I would nap and jib at going to school and express my loathing and execration of that institution he would inform me that I would NEVER leave school, that school was there for your whole life.

    It is true that this will be a post mortem experience, but still … I don’t know whether to be maddest about the being forever in school (or as close as this will come) or the fact that my father was more correct than even he dreamed. Shit.

    One of my sons asked me if this was the right thing to do since it was causing me anguish. I told him that in my experience, that was how you KNEW it was the right thing to do.

  11. I read Slaughterhouse Five before I read Nietzsche. When I read that demon bit, I immediately thought of Billy Pilgrim. Of course his life was pretty interesting.

  12. Indeed Spanish,if only they would teach Hume instead of religious ‘education’ in schools,the world would be a better place.

  13. I believe everyone has a right to decide if and when to die. After all it is our body and we have a right to leave it. I believe no one should stop us from dying. Personally I am not so sure about the soul but even if the soul and reincarnation is true I would rather come back and have a better life and abandon this bad one. If we have only one life and no soul I would still chose to die as a bad life is not worth living like the one I am living at present. I believe healthy people also have the right to die when they please. I am a healthy person who lives in fascist Sri lanka and have not much money. I plan to kill myself as soon as possible with phenobarbital or resperidone overdose as an alternative.

  14. How about fighting the fascism? If you are willing to die, why not die in defense of an ideal that could, potentially, help others you would leave behind? You may say, “I’m not cut out to be a fighter” or “I have no desire to cause harm to others – even enemies of humankind”…. but there are many ways to fight. You can write, for instance. Just sayin’….

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