Help me into that good night

Are there circumstances under which you would consider suicide?

I want to live forever, but there are circumstances in which I think I would rather die. I believe that should be my right.

The 2004 film “The Sea Inside”  showcases (this is a true story) the life a quadriplegic man, Ramón, who fought for the right to be euthanized. His court cases failed and he eventually did manage to kill himself by procuring a solution of cyanide. Through his life (ironically) and his fight to die he inspired many, and later his death inspired more.

The writer Terry Pratchett is considering his own death, having been diagnosed with Alzheimers. He is featured in the documentary “Choosing to die”, which one can watch here (if this is not in fact a legal means of watching this please let me know. I was not sure).

I’m too much of a coward to try to kill myself unassisted, I think. I’d very much appreciate someone else to push the button, or at least hand me the final deadly tonic. Many people, like Ramón, need someone else to help them die – it’s hard to kill yourself if you can’t move.

If I find myself with an incurable disease that would destroy mind – that would either cause me to lose my memory, or my ability to think and reason – I would like to die before that happens, by my own hand if that is the only way. To have less than my full reason, to be anything less than me, that is a fate I cannot countenance. I would like to go to God (or nothingness) with all my mental faculties intact – I want to be me.  I only hope I have the time and the opportunity to decide.

I want to make a similar argument to the one I presented with regard to abortion  . Whether assisted suicide or euthanasia is right or wrong is not the issue. I do not agree with Ramón’s decision to end his life. I think he had much to offer the world even in his paralysed state and that his life did have meaning. But I also believe that it was his right to decide to die and that he should have been allowed the assistance he needed to make it so.

We’re willing to put horses, dogs, and cats out of their misery, without their consent. Why will we not do the same for people who beg us to give them this mercy? Perhaps we put out dogs and cats for our ourselves – to cut the costs, to put an end to the troubles we must endure in having a debilitatingly sick pet. But our religious dogma or our (selfish) love will not allow us to do the same for a human being. These are cynical statements, I know, but they are accusations we must face.

before your name is lost from my lips
help me into that good night
before I cannot form words
help me into that good night
before your face is just another face
help me into that good night
before the beauty and mystery of numbers become unintelligible
help me into that good night
before I lose all that I am
and become some lesser thing
help me into that good night
before you look into my eyes
and see not me staring back
help me into that good night

if you love me, you will help me
before I leave you
help me into that good night

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  1. #1 by Thomas on 06/01/2013 - 5:19 pm

    Hmm, interesting. A couple of fun points:

    1. I feel much less strongly against euthanasia than against abortion. The reason is that in the first case, if all is well, the consequences are entirely for the person making the choice. In the latter case, well, if you believe inside-babies are people, that’s not the case to the same degree. I can sympathize with people who’d want to end their life if it seems like their life is just going to be terrible from a certain point.

    2. I don’t think I would be very happy to commit suicide. I can come up with a couple of very hypothetical situations – for instance, say I stray into an alternative universe and get captured by the Nazis who want to torture me to extract information on some rebels or Jews hiding somewhere or something (and let’s say I know their secret underground location). At that point, if I had a cyanide pill, I would certainly consider taking it. But things would have to get pretty crazy. I don’t think I would really consider suicide in the normal course of things.

    3. I’ve heard the issue of euthanasia raised in connection to diseases like Alzheimers fairly often. I’m not sure that I would do it to myself. I’ve never really encountered memory-destroying diseases close up before so I can’t emotionally picture how hard it is. But I hope by the time that possibility comes along I will have cultivated enough of a spirit of peace and power and worship that I wouldn’t be afraid. Plus it seems to be that when I rejoin God on the other end my faculties will be restored, and my period of sickness would seem like a weird fuzzy dream.

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