Last time on The Alex and Ronni Show, we discussed Oregon's Death with Dignity Act (I prefer the phrase, medical aid in dying or M.A.I.D), and my acquisition of the drugs that will end my life when/if I choose to do so. TGB reader Kate R left this question in the comments:
”I totally understand your whys of controlling when you decide you want to depart. You are fortunate to live in a state that supports this choice. I'm going to throw this in the conversation.
“My husband committed suicide by his own hand after many years of depression etc. I was shocked and not pleasant to witness. How is your choice not considered a form of suicide?”
The short answer is that it is not a “form of suicide”; it IS suicide, condoned and made legal in my case by the state in which I live.
Eight other U.S. states – California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington state - plus the District of Columbia also have death with dignity laws. In addition, no state law in Montana prohibits a physician from fulfilling a request from a terminally ill, mentally competent patient for medication to end his or her life.
Mostly, states and countries that allow medical aid in dying avoid the word suicide. I have no proof of this but I think they do so (as do I) because certain words are freighted with extra meaning beyond their basic definition, suicide being one of them. So we end up with such phrases as
Death with dignity
Freedom of choice at life's end
Medical aid in dying
Physician assisted dying
Right to die
Self-determined end of suffering
But they all mean suicide – that is, to die by one's own hand. Pains are taken in the words and meaning of the statutes where it is allowed so that the people who acquire the drugs to commit suicide are terminally ill as determined by physicians and are of sound mind.
Additional verbiage in the laws seeks to ensure that no one can be coerced by another person into taking the drugs and my doctor made a point to advise me that in choosing the day to use the medication, I must be physically able to lift the glass to drink from it on my own, without assistance.
A big feature of the medical aid in dying laws in the United States and most other countries is that the patient be terminally ill, usually with fewer than six months to live, according to physicians.
There is a case now in France of a 76-year-old woman who is is not terminally ill campaigning for her right to die just because she wants to.
In 2018, Jacqueline Jencquel, who has been vice president of the pro-assisted suicide organization ADMD (French language site), and a member of the Swiss right-to-die campaign group Exit (French language site), told Vice News:
”What really surprises people is that I'm not dying. In France, to get the right to die, you have to be on your very last legs and screaming in pain.
“We enacted the Léonetti law in 2005. This law was extended in 2016 to allow terminally ill people to be put to sleep with sedatives—to cut short their suffering before death. But it doesn't go far enough. It's a way of not really dealing with the end of life. The idea is to suffer first, then we'll help you bear it until your body just quits.”
Saying that she wanted to see another spring, Ms. Jencquel extended her first self-chosen “exit date” of January 2020 for six more months. Then she extended it again until the end of the year because, she said, she will have a new grandson in November.
“I am not in good health,} she recently told Euronews. “I have osteoporosis, I'm very fragile, and I have a stomach issue. And I know it's not going to get any better”.
“What's this taboo around death? I mean, we're mortal, aren't we? What is an option is the suffering before dying. And I don't really see any purpose and meaning in my life anymore.”
Dr. Vianney Mourman, a palliative care physician at Lariboisière Hospital in Paris, who rejects Jencquel's argument, told Euronews:
“'If she were very sick, and say “I suffer so much and nothing relieves me, by humanity, please help me kill myself.' The speech wouldn't be the same.'
“He insists that only once you've given the way to alleviate the suffering without success you could 'perhaps imagine that assisted suicide could be offered'. But for someone who is not sick and has a future, 'we can't, and we shouldn’t allow it: it's breaking a taboo that puts society at risk,' he reiterates.”
All the above is a wordy response from someone who believes that death with dignity, right to die, physician assisted dying, etc. are just other ways of saying suicide. I don't have trouble with the word but then, I've been reading and thinking about it for many years before I was in a position to consider it for myself.
Now I'm curious to read what you have to say.
If you are looking for more information about assisted suicide, here are three good organizations: