I admit to being appalled. Appalled that just twelve short years ago I thought we had been taught, yet again, how important life — LIFE — is. I thought that the 9/11 terrorist attacks would make it an indelible stain upon our psyches, our beliefs, our hearts: LIFE is precious and it matters.
“Surprise, surprise, surprise!” as Gomer Pyle would have said.
I just watched probably one of the most appalling things since 9/11 I’ve seen on television besides Roseanne Barr’s 2009 rendition of the National Anthem. I watched, mouth literally agape, a PBS “Frontline” on assisted suicide. They featured a group called the “Final Exit Network” and what they do to make sure that people can have a final exit with “dignity.” The show focused, I noticed, on the elderly. (Considering PBS’s “joined at the hip” status with this administration, is this a portend of things to come with the new health care program we’re all going to be subjected to?)
At the Frontline website about the show, “The Suicide Plan“, there are multiple links to different subjects about choosing to die and why it’s an acceptable alternate to living in old age, pain, frustration, immobility. The website seems to have “encouragements” on choosing assisted suicide.
One exception wrote about the difficulties of having a lifetime of physical infirmities and choosing to live that life and to not consider suicide as a viable option. He says,
“My point is, I could easily convince anyone that suicide is a rational option for me — particularly members of groups like Compassion & Choices and the Final Exit Network. And that scares me. Why shouldn’t I have the same barriers protecting me from moments of suicidal fantasies as everyone else has?”
Valid point. Those who wish to “die with dignity” forget the things that matter most: LIFE to start with (the lesson we should have learned on 9/11); family, the impact your death will have on others, and what you can do with your time while you are here.
Let us consider those one by one. Life. Of course! Life! It matters and the fact that you were given life in the first place — that you ever existed — matters. You are here for a reason and that reason is not necessarily over. What is it you have yet to do?
Family: Our families are impacted by having to assist with the deaths of loved ones, or having to voice support for it when they are internally conflicted. No, they don’t want their loved ones to be in pain, but they’d prefer to see their loved one out of pain and alive than have them commit suicide. Sometimes it’s partially a financial burden that helps them make the decision to support their loved one’s suicide. The financial burden is great and the rest of the family is suffering for it. I’m not saying that it’s always a financial decision, but sometimes that helps make the decision “clearer”. Not having Dad’s expenses may mean a $525 increase in the monthly household budget because that’s how much Dad’s medications cost.
The impact your suicide will have on others may be wider than thought. You committing suicide sets a precedent and gives other family members “permission” to do the same. They say “suicide runs in families” and the reason why is because the first person makes it more acceptable for those who follow. What kind of example do you want to set: standing strong and dealing with the life you have, or showing others in your family how to escape their problems and not deal with the problems and/or pain?
What you can do with the time you have left is up to you and your condition. Are you practically immobile? Do you have the ability to read? Have you got the ability to knit, crochet, paint, sing? Think of what you could leave to your grandchildren, child, or whomever before you die of natural causes. Think of what you would be missing the opportunity to contribute. You could dictate your life story into a digital recorder and your family would have that for the rest of their lives. Record your family history, recipes or anecdotes for those you love, instead of leaving them with the thought of following in your footsteps.
Being in pain is a horrible thing. It’s difficult. We all understand and acknowledge that. There’s no getting around that. There’s sometimes nothing that can be done for it. Acknowledged. But can you listen through your pain to the joy your life brings to your grandchildren? Or read to them or tell them stories about your life while you live?
Some would say that not having assisted suicide leads to an increase in the murder/suicide rate, but does that argument hold water?
According to Donna Cohen, the typical murder-suicide case involves a depressed controlling husband who shoots his ill wife: “The wife does not want to die and is often shot in her sleep. If she was awake at the time, there are usually signs that she tried to defend herself.”
(As someone whose former best friend was murdered [along with their two sons] by her controlling husband who then committed suicide, I can attest to the truth of that statement.)
It’s a “civil rights issue” goes the argument. That may or may not be, but civil rights or no, our actions and choices have consequences. Shall we ignore the impact our alleged civil rights have on others? Would you consider your grandchild’s suicide a tragedy, or an accepted consequence of your civil rights? Those who think that it wouldn’t be due to their own actions need to think again. Setting a precedent to follow is always conducive to repetition.
If the attacks of 9/11 taught us nothing else, let it teach us that life is precious. Those terrorists gave their lives for their belief that their religion gave them the right to take the lives of others in the name of their god. Let us fight back by wanting to live — our whole lives — as well, as fully, as truthfully as we can, always aware that our example can be followed by others and that the example we set is ours to choose. That’s a civil right and a lesson we should learn.