Social Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What are your thoughts on assisted suicide?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (33035points) February 16th, 2011

This is an extremely emotional question for me, because I have a very dear friend who lives in another country completely on the other side of the globe from me who is terminally ill. We chat online daily and have done for years.

He takes prescription morphine for constant pain, and there is much more to the story that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say he’s not going to get better, only worse. His doctors feel that his days are few.

He started talking about suicide a few months ago. Today, in our online discussion, he began to question what he was waiting for.

Is there a time when we should let go either as sufferers or as caregivers? Can suicide be justified?

Those are dreadful questions to ponder when you’re intimate with the situation.

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23 Answers

meiosis's avatar

Yes, suicide can be justified. It’s my body, my life, why shouldn’t I be able to choose the time and manner of my own death?

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t think we can know absolutely what we would want to do in a situation like your friend is in. However, I think we should have options, including the option to say, “I don’t want to be here anymore”. If someone who is terminally ill makes an informed choice that they are ready to end their life, I strongly believe we should allow them to and help them take that step.

However, while I would want the right to end my own life, and I have thought about this, unless I was sure that person would not face legal consequences, I don’t think I could ask someone to take that risk for me. Similarly, I think I would be reluctant to ask my husband to end my life. While I feel sure he would, I can’t imagine how painful it would be for him to have to do that and I would hate to cause him that pain. Of course, watching me suffer would also cause him pain. Such a complex topic Jake.

rooeytoo's avatar

The older I get and the more friends and relatives I see die horrible deaths, the more I have thought about this. I feel everyone has the right to take their own life. I don’t put caveats on it. You don’t have to be old or terminally ill. You just have to feel like you don’t want to live anymore. In the case of someone healthy and young, it is difficult for those left behind. But that is basically a selfish reaction. It is saying, I don’t care how badly or how desperate you feel, you owe it to me to suffer and stay alive so that I don’t have to suffer myself. I lost a nephew to suicide about 30 years ago when he was in his 20’s. It was horrible but I never blamed him, he did what he felt he had to do. I don’t understand but I really don’t need to.

In the case of those who are ill, I have seen enough of once vibrant adults reduced to wearing diapers and having someone else change them to know that I don’t ever want that to happen to me. I just put a dog down because he was losing, along with his strength, his dignity and he had always been such a clean proud dog. I see no difference with myself or my husband. If he asked for and needed my help to end his life, I would find a way.

iamthemob's avatar

The only problem with assisted suicide is that, were it to be made legally available, I wouldn’t want to fee like I gave any indication to a loved one that they should decide to end their suffering because of the emotional, financial and medical burden on my or our family.

This is the danger that many policymakers are partially concerned with – that the idea, whether subconsciously or openly, could come from the caregiver rather than the patient.

I don’t think the risk is big enough to mandate that someone suffer until they die when that can be avoided. Assisted suicide can help bring closure to all involved, as the documentary The Suicide Tourist shows. Your friend appears to be taking the appropriate concern associated with such a decision.

BarnacleBill's avatar

My father committed suicide after being ill for a long period of time, with no hope of improvement. The medications that he was on for both Crohn’s disease and emphysema were having psychological effects. It was a slow and tortuous death for a very active person. He was spending more time in the hospital than out of it. In watching my mother descend into Alzheimer’s from an early age, I would not want to live feeling trapped.

I would like to have the option of assisted suicide, if I ended up in either of those situations. The thought of death doesn’t cause me any fear.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Oh, @hawaii_jake , I am so sorry you and your friend have to go through this. It sounds like his pain is beyond debilitating, as well as exhausting at this point. I agree with @iamthemob that so many of the legal caveats around this are about pressure that may be brought to bear by families. When Oregon and Washington were deciding their stance on this, that was the most publicized aspect of the question, but I firmly believe that “life at all costs” is a very poor argument when one is in such pain and has lost hope of improvement.
I wish peace and relief to your friend, in whatever form it may happen.

troubleinharlem's avatar

I asked a question like this awhile ago, and I thought that maybe it would share some insight.

Anyway, I think that if the person is ready to go on (like the friend says that he is), then we should let him go. We are talking about terminally people who are dying anyway – who are in horrible pain and suffering, who want to die. I hardly think it would be a gift to force them to go on suffering. (as Val123 put it)

filmfann's avatar

I had to take my Mom off life support. I don’t any difference between that, and assisted suicide.

Blackberry's avatar

Sorry to sound cold, but this is exactly what assissted suicide is for: someone with a terminal illness that is extreme pain. There seems to be a general consensus that we don’t want our loved ones to suffer in their last days. I imagine I would do the same thing if I were in such a position. I would want my end to be smooth and painless.

tranquilsea's avatar

I think that we should allow for assisted suicide. Alzheimer’s runs in my family and I would want to check out before my personality disappeared and I started viewing my children/husband as strangers. I would want them to remember me when I was really me.

Jude's avatar

If people are suffering, they should have the right to go.

Meego's avatar

@hawaii_jake first I’m really sorry for your friend and you :(

My husband died because we had to turn his machines off like @filmfann had mentioned this seems like an assisted suicide but in my case I know my husband did not want to die and I wanted him to go on HIS own time whether that was 2 weeks or 2 years living on life support but of course I always care about everyones elses needs before my own and his entire family including his mother was more privy to him going the same day we were told, even though I was his spouse I was outvoted and I still pay for this emotionally daily. Now if I had his blessing I would feel much better that I did not make a wrong decision, I wouldn’t be happy but either way it played out I was not to be happy.
Assisted suicide is so touchy, I mean we “help” our animals go all the time why is it so different for people? Do you see something wrong with that picture as I do when it’s not ok for animals to suffer but people can?
Also when my father died from cancer (he wanted to live) it was not as bad as I thought it would be. He actually probably suffered more before the last 2 days of going into the hospital. He was given a year to live when we asked how will we know when it’s time, the doctor said he will tell you. On the day he went to the hospital he muttered the word “emergency” to my mother and then went into an almost coma like state. We went to the hospital we did the last rights. My father was a very proud man did not like us to cry or to see him suffer, we were in the room with him the entire day it came to night time we were going to stay everyone left the room to find chairs to sleep on, when we came back he was gone. The hospital gives them drugs it can make you feel like your witnessing an assisted suicide. I do remember saying “how do we know anyway?”. Of course I was in big time denial. I still am, loss is very hard for me to handle.
I guess, there is a point that some people just don’t have anymore strength or fight left, I did not witness this on either occassions, my father and my husband were great friends and both were very strong mind body and soul, also a little stubborn. It wouldn’t of made my grieving process any different but being that everyone has a time to go I would of had to grieve sooner or later. I can say that someone who is suffering it is normal for them to contemplate suicide, not everyone goes through with it, if the worst does happen though just remember that the person this has happened to probably would not commit suicide if they were healthy and that speaks mountains. Just try to console your friend let them know you are ok with whatever decision and it’s not because you don’t care but you do care about how they are feeling right now. Even as hard as their descision might be for you to deal with I know I don’t like to suffer, not many people do like to. Again I’m sorry.

iamthemob's avatar

It’s interesting in this context that we respect the dignity of our pets more than we do ourselves…

Please, don’t take this as flippant – I don’t mean it that way and I am not trying to undercut the emotional context here.

Jude's avatar

“It’s interesting in this context that we respect the dignity of our pets more than we do ourselves…”

I was thinking that, as well.

janbb's avatar

Yes, when I saw how peacefully my beloved dog was put to sleep when his life was near an end, I said to the vet, “Why can’t we do this for people?” He said he had thought the same thing when his Dad was dying.

I also empathize with you and your friend, @hawaii_jake. Maybe you can focus on how you can help your friend in his final days and what you can do in the friendship to bring peace for yourself. I would hug you if I were near.

faye's avatar

Canada here. In many hospital situations, analgesics will be given to terminally ill patients in doses we know will decrease their respirations if we are to keep them out of terrible pain. I see no difference in doing this in a home situation and I think many doctors would agree and let it happen with no consequences. People are expected to die with terminal illnesses and that’s all that has to go on the death certificate ie, heart failure, secondary diagnosis- pancreatic cancer. Really sorry, @hawaii jake.

flutherother's avatar

When the quality of life has dropped almost to zero and you find little pleasure in life and a lot of pain and no prospect of things getting better then it may be time to go but it is a deeply personal decision that no one should try to influence one way or the other but which we should respect.

Sunny2's avatar

I think everyone should have that option with no laws restricting it. The individual person should have complete control of the decision. It should be an out-patient procedure with a preplanned arrangement for disposing of the body. . . no fuss, no muss. . . in & out and that’s that. None of the usual overly sentimentalized mourning and fancy funeral claptrap. After all, life is life and death is death. It’s no body’s business but your own.

cak's avatar

I watched two members of my family die from ALS. It was fast moving in one, the other lived 7 years from diagnosis to death. It was horrific. I’ve seen people die from AIDS, Cancer and many other things. I think there is a time when someone should have the right to decide that it’s there time to go.

mrrich724's avatar

Good question. A difficult one to even think about. Living in the USA, I think it should be legal, because I think ‘it’s my body, I should be able to do what I want to do with it, as long as it is not putting others in danger.’

I think it would be great as a two part question, the second part being is it right (regardless of the legality). For example, I think abortion should remain legal, but I don’t believe it is ok to do. But I believe that it is a decision that needs to be left up to the person doing it.

If I were in an accident that left me paralyzed from the neck down, I would NOT want to be a burden to ANYONE, physically/emotionally/ or financially. I’d rather be dead, and why the hell shouldn’t I be able to choose that? If I come down with a terminal illness where I am GUARANTEED to die in a fixed amount of time and I have no option but to suffer during the remaining days, (as opposed to fulfill a bucketlist) I’d rather just get it over with after making peace with my family. And why shouldn’t I be able to make that choice. The government is saying, “no, you will die, but we decide that you have to do it the slow and painful way.”

To quote a wise person, “It’s my body, I do what I want” – Eric Cartman

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I think euthanasia is acceptable in certain cases such as terminal, painful cancer and the patient is still lucid enough to unilaterally make that decision for themselves. But not in a country such as the US where medical care is driven by for-profit insurance companies and hospitals where it might be deemed financially expedient to coerce a weakened patient to terminate their own life. Not in a country where the focus has been moved away from the patient’s best interest to that of the health of the corporation. No way.

rooeytoo's avatar

If you live in the USA or Australia, which are the only 2 countries I am familiar with, you must order nembutal from Mexico. This is problematic in that one can never be sure of the purity of the drug, so giving yourself the prescribed amount could be insufficient. It would be much simpler if you could just get it from your local pharmacy and be sure of the quality Or have a good friend who is a vet and arrange with him to leave the back door to his office open so you can go in and steal what you need.

But it was a good way to get in your dig about the USA.

gr8teful's avatar

I think that assisted suicide should be a human right for people with terminal or longterm mental Illness if the person so chooses and is an adult.I think that in an advanced civilistion this will be the case that an adult will have the human right to choose for themselves.If someone is Schizophrenic and is unfortunately born that way I truly believe in a compassionate society they would have the human right to choose an assisted suicide.To me Schizophrenia is a horrible Illness to have to live with and if there is a God why would he give someone such an Illness, the same of course could be said for anyone born with a painful physical Illness why would God do that to someone?This is why I believe that in a truly advanced civilisation human beings will Legislate for the human right for a person with either a longterm physical or mental Illness to choose an assisted suicide.Anyone who denys them this right has not lived with a longterm physical or mental illness.

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