Healthy Assisted Suicide in a Fear Gripped Society
The National Post recently published an article about a nurse who chose to end her own life with lethal injection. The reason? Despite being in good health, she was "afraid of getting old and being unable to kill herself." This has sparked a suicide debate in the UK.
I understand this lady's reasoning: she has worked in care homes and seen the elderly die, and it is tragic. However, this lady is not lonely or sick: she has a 25-year-old partner and is healthy. She is not like the norm of 75-year-olds, on countless drugs and in chronic pain. What she is scared of is the unknown--worried about dying in a debilitating way. The subject of fear is everywhere today. Just watching the news makes you feel depressedâ€¦or perhaps misery likes company?
The elderly today are more concerned of sickness overtaking their lives than having money for retirement; the care home has now become the boogie man. The fear is great that they will develop dementia, Alzheimer’s, or cancer; or, be left alone in a state of dependency. The fear is literally taking their lives while living. The group Exit (a voluntary euthanasia society)--will this be the next elderly version of Logan’s Run? A one-way destination to escape the unknown aspects of death? This lady was 75, and I must reiterate, she was healthy. People today are living well into their 90’s. Did James Dean have it right: Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse?
Fear of the unknown is changing the way people think. A perfect example that was recently in the news was Angelina Jolie. She had body parts removed while being healthy, for fear of developing cancer. Fear gives way to more fear, as it quickly drives hope further from our grasp of reality. What we have become is self-centered and selfish, and it is reflected onto our children and their children. This lady stated that she did not want to be a burden to her children, and I respect this thoughtfulness, but how do the children learn about caring for others when their best example of caring is removed? If we think of it, the birth process was not easy at all; we all came the same way, especially by natural birth: cold, crying, and facing the unknown. Dying is a reflection of the life lived, and it should be a time of gracefulness and respect. Caring is a learned experience, and as it continues, it is passed throughout generations. The elderly in society used to be respected, and in some cultures, like Japan, they still are. It is no wonder why care homes are booked to capacity, for when you are old and in need, you are no longer seen as useful. How sad this new reality is, to be discarded at the very time you need the most support.
Doesn’t nature teach us the process in a very simple way? Think of the four seasons of life for a tree. As a child, you enter in the spring, with life abounding and leaves green with vibrancy. In summer, you enjoy the spirited emotions with hormones raging, the leaves are full and strong--oh how beautiful. The fall is a time of maturity and reflection; the leaves start falling, but what colours they deliver--the life's experience reflected in full display. In the winter, the leaves are gone, the limbs are bare, and the sap is now in the roots, but tree is not dead; it just looks to be sleeping. Next spring, the same tree is renewed and full of life, with no residue seen of winter.
Life from beginning to end is still life, and it should be viewed as quality all the way through, no matter the condition. How do you change the thorough process of a society which keeps contact all hours of the night with thousands of virtual friends, yet doesn’t have time for those present in the daily life? If fear and alienation become the norm as we age, how many will want to complete their journey? If only the young and healthy are to be considered, what kind of a world are we going to create? Shall we pre-book our membership in the Exit group? No, absolutely not, for us we have one hope, and that hope is for compassion to return to the very core of our existence, for where there is hope, there is also breath and a life worth living.