The essence of a good death

Waterhouse sleep and his half brother death-

Hypnos and Thanatos: (Sleep, & his Half-brother Death) see below.

At its core, perhaps we can say death is two things: what it means to the person who dies, and what it means to the people who will remember. Two days ago in Austin, Texas, a young student, 20-year-old Richard Truong, died. Not particularly quickly, not particularly painlessly, but by his own hand. He had followed the fad for “chemical suicide” – a method of producing hydrogen sulphide gas by mixing household chemicals. This rather extreme example is used to highlight the often complexity of self-dying, and is not as unrelated to the peaceful exit approach favoured by followers of this website as it might at first seem.

“This is not an uncommon method of chemical suicide,” said the attending fire chief. “You can search on the internet to see some of the different ways this is done.” As he died, Richard also hospitalised six other people injured by the fumes and a further five that needed treatment for exposure to the gas. As he was in the process of cardiac arrest as emergency services arrived, it can reasonably be assumed that he didn’t get the mixture ‘quite right’ or experience the instant ‘knock-down effect’ for which he had hoped. It is likely that he suffered.

A ‘good death’ is sometimes described under three headings. One is CLINICAL: that the death is swift and relatively pain-free. Another is CLOSURE, which relates to the person’s relationships with others. A third is PERSONAL CONTROL — control of what is happening and maybe also being able to communicate before dying.

Someone who dies as a result of sudden depression, as it seems Richard may indeed have, most likely has not experienced closure. There are many things one might wish would have happened. One cannot imagine the pain now that his family must be experiencing. But Richard’s death is a lesson to all of us in terms of closure. In whatever way one dies, one’s death is a statement of one’s life. It is worth getting things right: the right time and the right way. It will mean something to somebody.

Seeing things ‘with a second pair of eyes’ can also be enlightening. Not just for the memory one creates but to see oneself as if as another person who is looking on. Was he or she getting things ‘right’? Taking care enough to plan properly? To focus enough, in the last statement of life itself, to do one’s best?

Last year, there was a panic over helium supplies. The situation seems now more or less stabilised (we are preparing an update for our print magazine and later for this Blog); yet in the interval we have seen a rush to seek out drugs which the movement had once discarded as dangerous, or a rush to recommend drugs that require great care.

People sometimes write to Exit and say, “You seem to recommend this, but someone else recommends something else: which is right?” All we say is, please examine the evidence. If you genuinely need this information to prepare for an unknown future, to give you courage to face a terminal illness, or have reached extreme old age, then there is time to consider options. There is time to look at evidence.

There is time to be as sure as you can possibly be.



Hydrogen sulphide
Although a painless death is sometimes possible, Exit does not recommend it. A report of a failed hydrogen sulphide attempt is reported here, and the science discussed in our publications and briefly elsewhere on this Blog. 1,2,3.

A good death
Research on the factors considered to be important in a good death are examined in a study that can be found here.

Methods of self-euthanasia
are detailed with extensive analysis and supporting evidence in our publications (see side-bar, Amazon or good bookshops). Exit does not give one-to-one advice on methods of suicide by phone, letter or email, or in any manner outside of its publications, members’ magazine and occasional full-day workshops.

John William Waterhouse [Public domain]. Sleep and his Half-brother Death is a painting by John William Waterhouse completed in 1874.  It was painted after both his younger brothers died of tuberculosis.

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3 Responses to The essence of a good death

  1. Mary Zeller says:

    Good subject and comments on it.
    I also noticed the picture (one I’ve seen and like the depth of meaning of the title).

  2. Reanne says:

    This is a subject that deserves to be acknowledged and accepted. However, perhaps there is a danger in overemphasizing it. Instead of offering ways for people to bring an end to their lives, why not focus our energies on doing all we can to help them rediscover joy and purpose? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about helping people discover the essence of a good life?

    Depression and suffering are very real. By no means am I downplaying the reality of people’s pain, but I want to simply offer a message of hope.

    What if life is always worth living? What if there is a plan and a purpose for each and every person? What if we accepted the fact that there will be times when we have to suffer, but that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

    The literal definition of compassion means: to suffer with. So when we say that euthanasia is the compassionate thing to do, we are contradicting ourselves. Killing someone removes the opportunity to journey alongside someone in the midst of their pain. No one wants to suffer, but perhaps it helps us to see the beautiful things in life more clearly. “Without suffering, we would have no idea about happiness, wisdom, maturity, beauty, contentment, or perseverance. All of these things happen because of suffering.” (1)

    This article ended with a call to all those discerning how to orchestrate their future death. It tells you that you must look for the most painless way to kill yourself if you are determined that death is the only option.
    _“If you genuinely need this information to prepare for an unknown future, to give you courage to face a terminal illness, or have reached extreme old age, then there is time to consider options. There is time to look at evidence.
    There is time to be as sure as you can possibly be.”_

    I’m here to tell you that death is not the only option, even when you feel you are as “sure as you can possibly be”. Life is worth living, and there is dignity to be found even in suffering. Never underestimate the power of someone who knows how to suffer well. These are just a couple examples of people who witnessed to the beauty of a truly dignified death.

    (comment has been slightly edited for length – ed.)

    • Thank you for your post, Reanne. We don’t usually post comments that come from an anti-euthanasia religious perspective, but we accept all views.

      Th point is that death is indeed ultimately the only option. We all die one day. Hope might make you live longer, but not prevent death. Not everyone finds dignity in suffering, and while anyone is welcome to it if that is what they believe, so are others entitled to their view. I have met many committed Christians who, when facing death, are afraid. They are afraid of the unknown, having avoided the topic all their lives. Maybe that won’t apply to you: but it will apply to some people.

      Our tagline at Exit is to take away the fear of death. One aspect of that is being able to take control. Several members have said having that having the control to ‘pull the plug’ at a time of their choosing gives them the courage to live longer.

      The methods of rational self-euthanasia are not the whole story but they are part of it for many people. We have also introduced guided meditations for those who wish it into our workshops. These are medically-trialed and tested methods for coping with imminent death of any sort, self-euthanasia, medically induced, or ‘natural’ (similar one have been used in hospices).

      People tend to look at our material after having considered all other options. Our published works require serious reading, not a quick ‘recipe.’ One of our main reasons for this work is that, if someone has decided, for whatever reason, to end their life a little earlier rather than a little later, we personally feel they have the right to make it as painless and as dignified as possible, so we address it scientifically (many ‘quick-answer’ books and websites do not do this, and result in an unnecessarily painful death).

      I know it is part of the outlook of many Christians (not all) to avoid thinking about death until faced with it. Not everyone thinks that way. In 30 years with this organisation, I have found the knowledge of inevitable death makes each day count more, makes life =more worth living. Just the other day there was a widely read article on a similar theme. You may enjoy it.

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