Friday, September 7, 2018

Promoting ‘Rational’ Elder Suicide

This article was published by National Review online on September 6, 2018.

Wesley Smith
By Wesley Smith

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. I used to call the annual event “Invisible Suicide Prevention Day” because it is so often ignored in major media.

But perhaps we should change that name to “World Prevent Just Some Suicides Day.” A mere five days prior to the big event, two columns were published in major newspapers that, at the very least, present elder suicide in a sympathetic light or, one could even say, praise it with faint damnation.

The first is from the New York Times by “The New Old Age” columnist Paula Span. In “A Debate Over ‘Rational Suicide,'” Span seems sympathetic to the argument that we should empower some elderly people to kill themselves. Oh sure, she expresses concerns — an elderly suicidal person could be mentally ill, the slippery slope, etc. — but her prime focus is supportive, unsurprising as she has also been favorably disposed toward suicide-by-self-starvation for seniors. From her essay:

The size of the baby boomer cohort, with the drive for autonomy that has characterized its members, means that doctors expect more of their older patients to contemplate controlling the time and manner of their deaths.

Not all of them are depressed or otherwise impaired in judgment. “Perhaps you feel your life is on a downhill course,” said Dena Davis, a bioethicist at Lehigh University who has written about what she calls “pre-emptive suicide.”

“You’ve completed the things you wanted to do. You see life’s satisfactions getting smaller and the burdens getting larger — that’s true for a lot of us as our bodies start breaking down.”

At that point, “it might be rational to end your life,” Dr. Davis continued . . . “We ought to start having conversations that challenge the taboo” of suicide, she said.

However heated the arguments become, as religious groups and disability activists and right-to-die proponents weigh in, there’s agreement on that point, at least. Reflexively negative reactions to an older person’s mere mention of suicide — Don’t say that! — shut down dialogue.

This is more that a mere “taboo.” Social disapproval of suicide is important and rational. It saves lives.

True, a “Don’t say that!” response isn’t helpful. But unequivocal loving and empathetic suicide-prevention efforts are. In all cases! That’s not the same as “dialogue.” It is treatment.

Meanwhile, in the Orange County Register, columnist David Whiting depicts elder suicide as a matter of “taking control” and “reasoned suicide.” His mother overdosed on animal sedatives obtained from Mexico — a suicide method pushed by the odious Australian suicide fanatic, Phillip Nitschke. Only she apparently found out where and how to obtain the poison in the New York Times.

From “Some Aging Seniors Are Stretching the Legal Bounds of Death with Dignity by Taking Control of their End of Life“:

Along with an unknown number of other seniors, Alice Whiting made her way to Tijuana and bought a bottle of veterinary pentobarbital, the gold standard of poisons, the same brew that has been used in putting convicts to death.

With a little sleuthing, I discovered that she found her “where and how” in a 2008 New York Times article that is more “how to” than necessary.
Rather than being upset with the Times for giving his mother a map to obtain lethal pills, Whiting seems supportive of his mother’s suicide:
Me? I wish I could have dinner with Mom tonight, and I don’t subscribe to what I consider Mom’s early death.

But I do subscribe to the idea that we should be allowed to control our end of life. Moreover, I subscribe to shedding light on something in the shadows.
But he isn’t just shedding light. Whiting does not advocate increased vigilance over the mental health of our elders or improved efforts to combat elder suicide. Rather, he concludes on a suicide-positive note:
Two months later, my father asks for every detail about his wife’s death. It becomes painfully clear he has struggled for weeks to understand what happened.

We talk for a very long time. I conclude, “Mom went out exactly the way she wanted and she loved you very much.” Dad smiles.

Experts and medical journals state risk factors for suicide include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders and substance abuse.

But they don’t mention anything about aging or a reasoned life lived in full.

This is very dangerous stuff for the elderly and indeed, any suicidal person struggling to remain on earth.

Suicide is contagious. That is why the World Health Association has warned the media against publishing articles that sympathetically depict suicide, describing the methods used in detail, or otherwise presenting it in a positive light. That caveat is increasingly ignored, as in these cases.

Let’s hope World Suicide Prevention Day advocates explicitly for the lives of our elders, no exceptions. And let’s hope the Times and other media pay as much attention to prevention efforts as they do to the promotion of some suicides.


Jean Clayton said...

I'm 77. I have medical problems, but my life and my death are mine. Many seniors lose heart when not only their families but much of society considers their existence to be useless. I think the decay of family life has a lot to do with the loneliness so many of us feel. We want support and good medical care, as do younger people. I suspect saving medical money has a lot to do with the trend to promote assisted suicide. We have become a society without a heart, and the situation is only getting worse.

Konrad Aniol said...

Whether or not a person is familiar with the biblical account of Moses and the Exodus it is worthwhile pointing out that age was not considered an end to a person's ability to fulfill an important need. Moses received the charge to lead his people out of slavery when he was 80 years old. He eventually died at age 120 when he managed to get them to the Jordan river overlooking their goal. There is no rational argument to say that a person's age can be used to characterize the importance of his contributions.

Maria Rodriguez said...

We must understand that before old age we were young and we also were lonely until
we met some one who wanted company as much as we did. So, we are not to be concerned
of being with some one always.It is nice to have some one around when things are going
good. We must also remember not to rely on the governments. We must demand that
they stay out of our lifes. The governments now are controlling our lifes and
that is causing problems. My daughter she is after me for some document to sign,
so, that she said it is important. I do not think that the government should
mandate how and when and whom will be having a right to our life. It is a very
serious considerations to give authority to any one to proceed as they please in
our behalf's. Canada has became the land of lawyers, with laws applied so that
old people be supported or taken care by the families. This is just can not be.
Long ago woman stayed at home and took care of every one in the family, and later
on the daughters of those woman's took care of them. But, now every one is working.
And children's are deprived from their love by being shuffled to a baby sitter
at the age of 12 months old. So, we have absolutely no family life in Canada.
And with all the loveless homes, the kids now are on drugs and dying on the streets. Those kids are not going to care for any one, they are out of their minds.
It is now become due to these factors the governments interest to promote the taking
of life and even doing it illegally or half illegally because how can we prove some
of the hospitals actions what is going on.
This is a very danger for having in Canada , Euthanasia, and assisted suicides
or assisted death. I am very angry with Trudeau that he did this to us Canadians.
We do not want any part of killings. It is his interest to save the money that
he squandered and giving it away for the families , more for those who will never
work, are on welfare, three kids, is a 20 thousand dollar baby bonus tax free.
Why should they go out to work for minimum wage on that they be taxed, and end up
with less then on the social assistance.
Those who works and pay taxes are short changed by our government.
We do not need to care for younger people how they think of us. They think we
got large pensions, when we told them, that the Old Age Pen. is. $596.00 per
months, they say, are you coking, we say no. They dont believe it.
I am for that Mr. Trudeau, gets what he deserves for his act for death.
God is not in favor of killing, and we know that from the Bible, and so on.
But, this person like Mr. Trudeau, he said , he wanted Euthanasia, because of
the sufferings of his dad. Well, when you are a prime minister you are not to
be dictated by your personal hurts, but, to see to the safety of the people.
Mr. Trudeau betrayed me, and all of us. I wrote letters after letters in 2015,
and many of of signed the petitions, that it is not true of that the people of
Canada wanted His , killing, with poison, most did not even understand the word
of what they heard. I am praying for that God the Father, the maker of us and
the good judge , will give Mr. Trudeau the right judgements.
Any opportunity I have , I will talk to all of how Mr. Trudeau is promoting suicides and that in the hospitals we are not safe . Not in my age, of over 80.
or any one ill, disabled, or labeled, undesirable for some reason.
So, help me God to be a service to all who are obedient to God's laws, and help
me to demote those who are trampling on God's laws.
Thank you,