Monday, September 19, 2011

Comment on World Suicide Prevention Day by Alison Davis

I found out, only on the day itself that the World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) was held on Saturday, September 10, 2011. I feel it is a great pity that information about the Day was not more widely disseminated, since I would have liked to have had the chance to comment on the Day and the literature associated with it, before the event actually happened.

I have read through all the literature associated with the Day, but have been unable to find any mention in it of attempts (if any are made by WHO) to prevent the suicide of disabled/sick/elderly people, who are currently the main targets of campaigns by groups in many countries, including those in Europe, to legalise what is euphemistically called "assisted suicide" or "assisted dying." In plain English, these terms simply mean facilitating the suicide of vulnerable people.

I did notice some comments in your literature which would appear pertinent to the paragraph above. Not least, you give examples of activities which can support WSPD, which include "holding depression awareness events in public places, and offering screening for depression." No such care is taken over prospective victims (so-called "volunteers") of "assisted suicide" though it seems very likely that many if not most of them will be suffering depression to some degree.

I would like to give you a personal example of such a case, and solicit your opinion on it.

I am now 56 years old and live in the UK. I am a full time wheelchair user, and need a ventilator at night, and at some times during the day. I have spina bifida, hydrocephalus, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and kyphoscoliosis-lordosis, as well as other complications for which surgery is indicated, but is not possible for me because of the risk of my undergoing anaesthesia. I have experienced severe pain for over 30 years, and this pain is worsening due, in part, to fractured bones, including vertebrae. The pain is helped, but by no means controlled, by use of morphine and Fentanyl patches.

Some years ago I decided the future held nothing for me but more pain, which I felt would be unbearable. I attempted suicide several times. At that time my doctors thought my life expectancy was very short. On the day I remember best I took a large overdose of painkillers, drank a whole bottle of Martini, slashed both wrists with a penknife, and settled down in bed to die. Fortunately (though I thought most unfortunately at the time) a friend arrived shortly afterwards, let herself in, found I was losing consciousness, and had me taken to the hospital, where I was treated against my will. Had euthanasia/assisted suicide been legal then, I am sure I would have requested it. Under the rules that apply in countries/states where such "suicides" are legal, or even in the UK, now that "Advance Directives" (Living Wills) are legally binding, the doctors' hands would have been tied. I would have qualified to be "assisted" to end my own life, and I can see no reason why such a request would have been refused.

Had this been done, no one would ever have known that my doctors were entirely wrong in predicting a short life expectancy for me. And equally, no one would have known that, despite increasing pain and debility, I would be missing the best years of my life.

May I ask what, if anything, you are doing to prevent the sort of "suicide" I would have requested, had it been legal? Would you campaign against political proposals in the UK or any other country within your jurisdiction to legalise "assisted" suicide for people like me, or those who are elderly, in pain, and simply "tired of life"?

I note two further comments in your WSPD brochure which have relevance here. You say that we must "educate the media on how to report suicide responsibly." This is most definitely not being done at present in the UK. Indeed, we are constantly bombarded by TV programmes and media reports on how "merciful" such killings are, and how the perpetrators are heroes rather than killers, and thus ought to be praised, not prosecuted. Will you be doing anything to alter this state of affairs? Finally you say that "suicide prevention is everybody's business." May I ask what you are doing to prevent the suicide of sick and disabled people like me, which is being heavily promoted not only in the UK but also in many European countries, in some of which it is already legal?

Yours sincerely,
Alison Davis

Another recent article by Alison Davis.

Commentary by Stephen Drake of Not Dead Yet
on World Suicide Prevention Day.

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