Let me die : let me live – empower for both

Empowering people to die with dignity or empowering them to stay alive are two sides of the same coin

Exit euthanasia blog, at the beginning of March, warned about chemical suicide – one of the more painful and undignified ways of ending one’s life, and mostly a way chosen by persons suffering unbearably but with an emotional trauma rather than those suffering unrelievable illness. Immediately after the blog post, this website had more than double the visits it has ever had before. Does this mean that persons in the first category visit right-to-die sites even more than those with unrelievable illness?

Whatever the facts, the philosophy of inclusion (spoken about in Rights and Being Right are Not the Same) applies equally here. To empower those that rationally want to die by suicide, we need also to empower those that do not wish to die but are suffering through a temporary imbalance. Assisted suicide and suicide prevention should go hand-in-hand – helping those with good cause to die to to die, and helping those that would really rather live also to live.

There is a mistaken belief that the mere existence of suicide information increases the likelihood of irrational suicides: this is not so, even if it seems logical. Both psychological research and statistical studies from several different countries show that availability may sometimes affect the means but not whether the person dies by suicide or not. This is due to what psychologists call the lack of ‘state impulsivity’ at the moment of suicide. People plan suicides. This presents a dual option for intervention. Firstly, legislation to allow rational suicide and assisted suicide with the full and open back-up of the professions. Secondly, and most importantly, by bringing it out of the closet the potential for effective suicide prevention (in irrational suicides) is increased.

The right-to-die movement has for too long been narrowly focussed on the interests of a small group of people. But we live in a wider world. By empowering, respecting and enhancing the rights and capacities of all people we can introduce both safeguards to discourage painful, undignified suicides and enhance capacity so that people are clearer about whether they wish to end their life or, with proper support, continue it.

References:
Revisiting Impulsivity in Suicide(Smith, Witte, Teale et al)
Ethical Questions on Publication, in: Five Last Acts II
Evaluation of Competence to Consent to Assisted Suicide(Ganzini, Leong, Darien et al)
Plastic Bag Asphyxia in Southeast Scotland (Jones, Wyatt, Busuttil)
Paracetamol-related deaths in Scotland (Sheen, Dillon, Bateman)
(please note – paracetamol is another very unreliable and potentially very painful way of attempting suicide!)
Effectiveness of Interventions to Prevent Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour (Scottish Government)
Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)

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