Suicide: Desperate, Hostile, Tragic… but mostly a Bloody Mess

A recent WaPo article by the daughter of a suicide highlights inadvertently the vital differences between suicide and Medical Aid in Dying. Its detractors persist in defying logic and decency in using the hoary, rejected terminology of Physician Assisted Suicide to imply that what befell Roxeanne Robert’s father some 20 years ago is analogous to what occurs in the states where MAID is perfectly legal.  And they are clearly polar opposites.

Medical Aid in Dying is neither desperate, nor hostile… perhaps tragic… but never a bloody mess.  Suicide though usually is; it is very often impetuous, brought about by irrational ideations, false impressions, or wildly uncontrolled emotions.  It almost always entails some horribly violent end, whether through gunshot, jumping off buildings or in front of moving vehicles, or electrocution.  It is never pleasant for the loved one(s) who come upon the remains of their deceased family member.

By contrast, MAID is the result of a rational analysis in conjunction with trained professionals, often in consultation with one’s family members who often accompany their loved one at his death bedside.  It is almost inevitably a peaceful, loving end, in a place and a time of one’s choosing, surrounded by love and empathy.  There is never bloodshed involved.

When MAID opponents harp on the term Physician Assisted Suicide, which almost every serious medical practitioner rejects as a misnomer, instead of the generally accepted term MAID, they are trying to confuse the issue and assimilate a national tragedy of an increase in suicide rates with society’s interest in reversing this trend.  They syllogism runs as follows “Suicide is a tragedy which we must discourage… and PAS is a type of licensed suicide… ergo, we must oppose PAS as encouraging suicide.”

The reality is MAID has nothing to do with suicide.  The situation of those who avail themselves of the practice is the polar opposite of those who commit self-murder.  The latter have an otherwise indeterminate life ahead of them; they inevitably are suffering from a mental delusion or heightened emotional state; they are often reacting impulsively to a temporary disappointment; they otherwise have numerous options including medical treatment for depression.

Those who use MAID have no illusions: they have been told they will die within 6 months, no matter what they do.  They know their quality of life is severely compromised and essentially hopeless.  They have been told that they can remain in hospice or embrace palliative care, and still they have weighed these imponderables and made a decision which few can question as being irrational.

So to those who enjoy bungling the English language and grasp on to dated terminology, I would note that once upon a time American psychiatrists deemed homosexuality a deviance if not a diseased syndrome, but they have moved on to a an illuminated understanding.  It’s about time, my linguistic troglodytes, that you too accepted that PAS is an inappropriate, medically incorrect and deeply offensive term.

2 Replies to “Suicide: Desperate, Hostile, Tragic… but mostly a Bloody Mess”

  1. I am 88 years old, in relatively good health and have been a member of Compassion and Choices and Death with Dignity for about 20 years. I believe in Medical Aid in Dying, but I have thought that our very conservation legislature would not enact MAID in my lifetime. It would be interesting to know the status of your organization. I live in Asheville and I am planning to give a talk on Sept. 17, to Unitarian Universalists who live at Givens Estates Retirement Community. Do you have any information which I could pass along to people here who might be interested.? Are you connected with the Charlotte group?

    1. Hello Ann
      thanks for your note. I am not as pessimistic as you, and in fact the raison d’être of Dying Right NC is to get MAID legislation passed in NC… within your lifetime and mine.
      We have been able to get bills introduced in the past two biennia (HB 511 in 2015 and HB 769 in 2017. We are already working with legislators to get a bill introduced in 2019. We have meanwhile been talking to a variety of stakeholders (doctors, legislators, influencers, pollsters) to explain the mechanics of MAID legislation.
      I have a lot of information on MAID nationally and in NC, so if you can tell me what type of information you are looking for, I am happy to send to you. I do not know what group in Charlotte you are referring to? Is it to Dan Carrigan and C&C?
      I should add that Dying Right NC organized a conference on Expanding End of Life Options in NC this past May at Center City on the campus of UNC-C, which was covered on Charlotte Talks radio. We are making progress!

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