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.

Photo of Edmund Tiryakian

Edmund Tiryakian

Ed Tiryakian, J.D., MBA, founded Dying Right NC in 2015 and is its Executive Director. He previously worked in international banking in Asia before retiring to his native NC.He believes End of Life issues are one of society’s most pressing challenges as we all live longer and the medicalization of the dying process continues to conflict with the individual’s right to choose his or her end.