If we are talking about suicide as a symptom mental illness, I would say no, and I would hope that we can reduce the stigma surrounding suicide enough that those who are teetering on the edge can take a step back and get help. But in my opinion, there is one type of suicide, one situation, where it is acceptable. The type of suicide I am talking about now isn’t the type that is a symptom of mental illness. It isn’t caused by the lies whispered by demons in one’s shadows. I am closing out this week long discussion of suicide with a look at doctor-assisted suicide for terminal patients.
The way it works in states and countries where this is legal is that a patient is given a prescription for a lethal dose of a medicine, such as Seconal, that will allow them to pass away peacefully. This is based on a request made by a patient after a diagnosis that will be terminal within a specific time frame. In some jurisdictions, the request needs to be made a second time after a specific period of time has passed, or the diagnosis must be confirmed by a second physician.
Now, I realize that some may disagree with me on this for any number of reasons, and that is fine. But here is what I base my opinion on.
First, there are numerous studies that demonstrate the prevalence of depression and despair in terminally ill patients. As someone familiar with the nightmares of depression, I would not wish it on anyone, and I certainly would not want to spend my final days in its midst. These psychological harms only add to the suffering from the underlying illness.
And while I don’t have any evidence to support this, I suspect one reason people face such depression is the loss of control over their final days. As someone frustrated by the lack of control I feel while in the midst of a depressive or anxious episode, I can sympathize with wanting to have some degree of control over something that has already taken so much from you. It seems cruel to me to take that control away from these individuals in their final days.
There are of course concerns for abuse. If the reasoning is that you won’t get better, what is to stop people with mental illness who have lost all hope from seeking, or at the very least justifying, suicide for themselves? In this case, I place my faith in medical professionals to handle these situations with grace and compassion, while ensuring that those who are struggling with mental illness get the help they need so they can again find hope. Others fear that ‘giving up’ eliminates any possibility of a new treatment or of one last hope, but given the short time frames that apply to these situations, this argument seems to me more like the bargaining stage of grief than a legitimate, logical reason.
Ultimately, where your opinion on this issue falls is for you to decide. I recognize it is a difficult issue for many, and I respect those with different opinions. This is my opinion and my reasons. I’m not asking anyone else to adopt them, but on this site I must first and foremost be honest.
And if you do have a different opinion, I would love to hear it. I believe that talking about these issues are hard, but necessary.
And as always, thanks for reading.