Once before I tackled the complex issue euthanasia. It was pragmatic approach to the subject during my first year of nursing school. Unfortunately, it was pro-euthanasia. Back then, I saw the universe through a keyhole. Of course, at the time it was a telescope. Writing the assignment, I experienced no emotion, only a commitment to substantiate my thesis that euthanasia was the medically and philosophically correct thing to do. There was no politically correct back then.
Today I see things very differently. I have put a few hundred thousand miles on my car, which does not mean that I am necessarily a good driver; only that I have had a lot of time to contemplate the meaning of life.
It was during one of these driving excursions that I contemplated committing that desperate, irrevocable deed of embracing death as a solution to my despair.
My life was a mess and I feared that it would never improve. I had been trying ardently to have a child and I feared that I never would. My marriage was a disaster and I feared it would end in divorce. But as I yanked the steering wheel out of alignment, suddenly all I felt was overwhelming need to live. Inexplicably, my life wish was granted! I had invited in but for some reason, it had declined my invitation.
According to Ellen Boone, Director of Hamilton’s Suicide Prevention Bureau, my experience is typical of suicidal individuals. “They often want to live and die at the same time and sometimes in the midst of a suicide attempt, want to live more than die but it’s too late.”
A reason to live
I hadn’t really wanted to die. What I really was a “reason to live.” In a book of the same title, comedian Louie Anderson says “suicide works in books, movies and T.V. Those things can be rewritten but life can’t.”
What’s she doing? You might ask. This is supposed to be about euthanasia, not suicide. Actually, it’s about both. If you have one, you have the other. They’re like inseparable brothers. Euthanasia has been lying dormant for years but suddenly, you can hear its thunderous tramping in the halls of Parliament, on the television and in popular culture.
So this time, as I write this article, I am struggling with hundred different emotions, I keep seeing myself…on my knees in the middle of the street…begging passersby, not to embrace death as a solution.
A barrage of terms have been invented to define the acts of suicide and assisted suicide. Derek Humphry describes suicide as “self-deliverance,” which is somewhat akin to de
fining abortion as “weight loss.” “Obituary” a la Kevorkian is an attempt to create a fashionable new medical specialty out of killing people. “Medicine,” “self-destruction” and “mercy killing” are also commonly used.
Humphry claims that “the public knows there is a difference between emotional and rational suicide.” Emotional suicide was my kind of self-destruction, generated largely by fear. We should discourage that kind, he says. But he wants to legalize, and encourage, “rational” or “justifiable suicide,” which he defines as a clearly-considered decision made by a terminally-ill or physically-handicapped adult.
He then furnishes us with ten reasons why people are increasingly considering this new variety of suicide. Now tell me if I’m asking too much, but it seems to me that brand new kind of suicide calls for some brand new reasons as well. Inventive…imaginative ones. What a disappointment! Humphry hands us the same tired excuses that people have been using for years. Dread, disillusionment, suspicion…fear. Incidentally, fear is mentioned four times in his list of ten. Fear was at the top of my list too. Humphry and others are capitalizing on, and exploiting, people’s fear.
Now that the horror of dying a prolonged, agonizing death has been brought to the boiling point, advocates are painting euthanasia as a “right.” While Humphry calls assisted suicide the “ultimate civil liberty.” Daniel Callahan of the Hastings Centre says “al-lowing another person to kill us is the most radical relinquishment of sovereignty imaginable, not just one more way of exercising it.”
If Svend Robinson has his way, the “right to be killed” will be enshrined in Canadian law. His Bill C-385 calls for Section 14 of the Criminal Code to be repealed and would allow medical practitioners to legally “counsel, aid or abet” a person to commit suicide. This bill will be the open door through which involuntary euthanasia will walk. The elderly are already made to feel like a burden. The terminally ill are pressured to just up and die. So-called voluntary euthanasia in Holland al-ready takes the lives of thousands, without their consent. Jakki Jeffs, Director of Alliance Ontario urges us to “reject the misguided pleas of the death mongers who believe that killing is the only medical treatment for the symptoms of terminal illness.”
When I tried to drive my car off that bridge ten years ago, suicide was still a no-no. My doctor gave me stern lecture about what a “selfish” act it was. Now, suicide is
being presented as an act of unselfishness…for the terminally ill. What of terminally depressed, as I was? When will suicide become a prescribed alternative for them as well? The answer is now…unless we all get down on our knees in the middle of the street to beg passersby not embrace death as a solution.