October 21, 2012
I had trouble with some of the numbers in this essay; in fact, I have been so overwhelmed lately by the conglomerate’s behavior that I couldn’t make a decision in the midst of the essay and left the numbers as I’m going to publish them here. I think the idea is plain enough.
Other people have done a lot of thinking, research and writing about this issue. I don’t claim to be an expert or to have spent more than a few hours considering the question of assisted suicide.
I’m in favor of assisted suicide for some situations. However, I think that assisted suicide should always be conducted by a physician. I don’t think that people should be able to fill a prescription for suicide medication at a pharmacy. I think that the potential for abuse and accidents is too serious for that. Someone could steal the medication and murder someone, for example.
I think that there should be a significant process that someone has to go through to have an assisted suicide. I wouldn’t restrict assisted suicide to people who have terminal illnesses that have guaranteed pain and/or debilitation before death. I think that people who are in extreme and chronic pain that can’t be alleviated ought to be helped to end their lives, also, if they choose to do so.
I think that the opinion of more than one doctor, working independently of each other and at a substantial geographic distance from each other, should be required. I say “substantial geographic distance” because people within a profession who work in the same geographic area often know each other, have heard of each other, run in the same circles or have other connections that can make objective, independent opinions difficult to obtain.
The person should have to meet with a counselor of his or her choosing for a few months to talk about the decision, during which he or she could either decide not to follow through with the suicide or could try to resolve whatever emotional and personal issues could be resolved before dying. The time spent in psychological counseling and also working with someone who could try to help the person resolve his or her financial questions could be accelerated for people who have fewer than a few months to live.
An investigation should be required about whether the person truly wants to die in the way that he or she is requesting or is being pressured or threatened by others. I think that those investigations should be done only by people who have both legal training and a lot of professional and personal experience; I think they should be judges with courtroom experience. For those judges, there should be an age minimum of 50 or 60, a professional requirement of 20 or 30 years of experience, and evidence of personal integrity. There ought to be a right of appeal for someone who gets an answer that he or she doesn’t like.
I’ve heard about people who didn’t kill themselves but who, in old age, got the feeling that they were going to die, called up the people whom they cared about to say “It’s about over. I wanted to say goodbye,” and died soon after. A lot of people feel bad that they didn’t have the chance to say “Goodbye” to someone who died. There are other things that people often would like to have been able to say to someone before the person died; “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you,” for example. Probably, most people wouldn’t waste the postage or time it takes to send notification to the people whose responses would most likely be “At least you have time to donate your winter clothing to a good cause before you get where you’re going,” “Why did you think I would care?” or the all-purpose and unfortunately timeless “Good.”
There’s a joke that has been made before, that a funeral is a gathering for someone who can’t participate in it. Why couldn’t there be a gathering for the person that he or she could attend, to say and do the things that had been left unsaid and undone, and/or to create one last memory with his or her loved ones? Inevitably, there would be people who would have those gatherings and then decide not to die, which would give the people who write about etiquette an inexhaustible topic for which their best thinking and writing would be required without fail.
Copyright L. Kochman, October 21, 2012 @ 2:01 p.m.