3 years ago1,000+ Views

Do people have the right to choose when and how they die?

When I was younger, I used to joke that suicide shouldn't be illegal "because what can they do to you if you fail"? I learned later that the reasoning for this was so emergency services personnel could break into a private residence to rescue someone who had attempted suicide (because they would be 'preventing a crime'). But as I've gotten older, I've given this question a lot more consideration. For most of my life, I've been more concerned with suicide prevention. I've worked as a volunteer with a lot of at-risk communities, so this makes sense. Of course I want to prevent the tragic loss of life when it comes to depression and substance abuse. But what about suicide for those who are facing a terminal or painful illness?
@TessStevens brought up the subject here yesterday, and I realized as I was commenting that my thoughts were probably too long, so I decided to make this card.

Which brings me to Terry Pratchett.

You might know him as the author of Discworld. He is one of my favorite people. His sense of humor is incredibly gentle and poignant, and I've adored his writing since I was very young. On March 12th, 2015, Terry Pratchett died in his home. He'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, an incurable degenerative brain disorder. And while his death was of natural causes, for a long time he had been considering assisted suicide.

Not only did he consider assisted suicide, but he documented the journey he took to make his decision.

"What you are about to watch may not be easy, but I consider it important."

The documentary followed the lives of others who had chosen assisted suicide. I recommend the full documentary (available here). I don't recommend it lightly. Over the course of the documentary, Pratchett grew to know a man with a terminal illness, and together they discussed the decision he and his wife made: to end his life before it progressed to an unbearable degree. After the decision was made, Pratchett joined him for his last moments. He died comfortably, with his loved ones.

"In fact, by now, I have reached the ­conclusion that a person may make a decision to die because the balance of their mind is level, realistic, pragmatic, stoic and sharp. And that is why I dislike the term "assisted suicide" applied to the carefully thought-out and weighed-up process of having one's life ended by gentle medical means."

It's the one thing we all have in common, the one thing that is an absolute. And while it seems like a great unknown, we do have the choice to determine how it occurs. While sometimes nature or circumstance takes this choice away, it is one that we have. Personally, I'm not clear myself on when this choice is one that should be considered. As I mentioned, I've volunteered with organizations that actively try to prevent suicide. However, I also feel that when it comes to the bodies of others, the choice should never be mine.
I think there is a huge difference between suicide and expressing your right to die with dignity, but I really don't yet know how to explain what I'm thinking. I guess... suicidal people tend to be so burdened mentally. They tend to seek help, which tells me that they aren't fully committed to that choice. They are desperate and, for the most part, they are thinking of themselves, not their families, children, etc. Does that make sense? On the other hand, someone who is choosing to die because of an illness is in a completely different frame of mind. They have been given a death sentence (in most cases) and are choosing to go without that extended drawn out illness killing them instead. I've had (extended) family members say that they'd rather die peacefully than in pain. I can understand that. It's a choice to have your family remember you the way that you always were. It has to be a Brutal choice. Who am I to tell them what they can or can't do with their lives, as long as no one else is physically harmed in the process. I don't think there is a right or wrong choice here, unless you are putting religion into the mix, which isn't fair. Believe as you will, but don't force those beliefs on every other person. I think this has to be handled case by case. I like the way that California worded their bill... but still. There is no right or wrong. It has to be a personal decision. We need to spend more time loving one another instead of throwing judgement. That simply isn't MY job in life. Hopefully something in there made sense.
This may seem wrong to say but if someone wants to commit suicide, then they should have the right to do so. The catch is that not everyone should commit suicide. To make myself clear and better understood I should say that only people who have terminal diseases or are suffering from their disease and want it to end already. Don't get me wrong. I wish people wouldn't just go directly to suicide if something is not going right for them. I would love it if people wouldn't give up on their life but then I thought "I don't fully understand their pain"or "I'm not in their shoes do I have no right to say much". It's a really sad topic and the conclusions are endless...
I actually watched an icredible documentary in college about Assisted suicide. Not sure if it was the terry pratchett one. probably not. but in any case, I think there are strong arguments to be made in favor of it. people should be allowed to determine this for themselves if put into a situation like this.
Thank you for tagging me @shannonl5 . I am now most interested in this topic...
@AlexanderBeta I do agree with you on that. Assisted suicide is just a sugar coat to make things pleasant which is not entirely a good thing but then again if they want it, they should get it. I'm not full blown agreeing to this but that's the only way to at least "save" people.@nicolejb @shannonl5 honestly counseling is a wonderful idea but then again how many people (who want to commit suicide) would want to attend in such thing? Yes maybe they just want someone to notice them but then we have those who have traumatizing experiences who are afraid that they'll be laughed at for being counseled. This is usually where judgment comes to play. Afraid of being criticized is another good reason why people would want suicide than the opposing people who have illnesses.
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