Just Whose Death Is It, Anyway?Author of this text: Marge Mignacca
his 2-page op-ed in the Spring 2003 issue of Free
Inquiry, Tom Flynn did a masterful job of responding to Carol Ezzell's
article „Why? The Neuroscience of Suicide" (Feb. 2003 Scientific
too, had read Ezzell's article and shared Tom's dismay, and the rejection of
many of her comments and conclusions. To say that she is opposed to suicide
would be understatement, and granted, the violent suicide of her own mother
might well be reason enough to sour a daughter on the whole idea. But to
conclude that suicide automatically signifies „a diseased mind" is downright
irresponsible and inaccurate. Flynn, as well, has experienced the shock of a mother's suicide, but it's to his credit that he has not permitted that very
personal loss to interfere with his ability to think critically, and to ponder
the question of suicide fairly and rationally.
decision to commit suicide (either by oneself or with the assistance of a physician, if that can be arranged) should be left solely to the person whose
life will end, and not to anyone in the periphery, not the family, not the State,
and certainly not to overbearing activists on the sidelines who, for whatever
reasons (usually religious), are hell-bent on preventing suicide not merely in
their own families, but for us all.
there are times when the desire for a quick and merciful death is not only
understandable, but totally sane and sound. It is frequently a decision
involving considerable planning and a careful thought-weighing of all the pros
and cons. At such times, it is a logical, reasonable, and completely rational
choice, and one which all of us should have the freedom to make.
Tom points out in his rebuttal to the Ezzell article, she never considered that
suicide can be a perfectly sound choice, nor did she ponder that much of the
pain and trauma surrounding a loved one's suicide is a direct result of „the
way our society demonizes it." Exactly!
my daughter and I were struck by still another omission which countless writers
of suicide essays fail to mention, which is that not every type of suffering can
be alleviated with pain medications, nor is it helped by therapies and
medications for the treatment of severe depression. I have seen, up close and
personally, the final struggles of a child slowly dying of what is often
referred to as "air-hunger," but which (for those of us who prefer the
hard-hitting candor of plain talk) amounts to prolonged suffocation. No one with
an ounce of compassion would wish it on his worst enemy, much less a loved one,
and particularly a little child. This is suffering at its barbaric, absolute
worst, and in slow motion!
should also be stressed that for patients with conditions such as advanced
cancer, adequate pain relief often is not as simple as it sounds. Unless a patient is fortunate in having access to a physician specifically trained in the
complexities of effective pain-relief, he may wind up suffering untold agonies
because of the doctor's fear of „addiction." You have no idea how
prevalent this nonsense is among doctors who simply haven't kept up with the
latest thinking and developments on proper pain control.
can vouch for this, having observed (as well as experienced) it, within the past
year. I watched a cancer-ridden hospital roommate writhing in agony because she
was terrified of taking adequate Morphine, after a doctor had sternly warned her
of the perils of „addiction." She became so paranoid that she was fearful
even of taking the allotted number of morphine „hits."
while my own pain was surely miniscule compared to hers, nevertheless the
combination of emergency abdominal surgery added to the ongoing misery of an
ornery arthritis (for which I am unable to take the customary drugs of choice,
due to allergies) was more than sufficient to have me longing to leap from my
6-floor hospital room.
why was I subjected to such needless suffering? Because my surgeon had taken it
upon himself to decide that he knew more about my day-to-day pain status than
did the specialists at a local Pain Treatment Center, who had been effectively
controlling my pain over the past couple of years. This arrogant surgeon
steadfastly refused to administer two of my daily medications in the dosages
that had been prescribed. Nor would he even allow them to be administered at the
yes, it does happen that patients are
denied adequate pain-relief. And it occurs often enough that all of us should be
it can't all be laid to the
ignorance of physicians who are unenlightened about modern-day developments in
pain control. Instead, I have to conclude that much of this reluctance to
prescribe adequate pain relief is a direct result of the Bush Administration's
zealous, right-wing approach to anything smacking even remotely of „drugs"
or „euthanasia!" Physicians are terrified that the Government will come
after them if they prescribe adequate pain relief, and they are fearful that if
they buck the system, the Government will retaliate by revoking their licenses.
As you may know, Attorney General John Ashcroft had threatened to prosecute
doctors even in those states where prescribing marijuana to terminal AIDS or
cancer patients (for control of pain or nausea) is legal! Such is our
Government's current administration, with its gaggle of Gestapo-like enforcers,
all goose-stepping in time to the Ashcroft beat.
Dubya and his crowd should occupy the White House for a second term, I daresay
suicide, in particular, will be even harder to pull off that it is right now.
if Bush does make it into the Oval
Office for a second term, chances are that greater numbers of us than ever
before might be tempted to seriously ponder the merits of suicide, even while in a state of excellent health!
Published in the 2003 September/October issue of the
American Rationalist ©
« Society (Published: 04-09-2003 Last change: 21-09-2003)
All rights reserved. Copyrights belongs to author and/or Racjonalista.pl portal. No part of the content may be copied, reproducted nor use in any form without copyright holder's consent. Any breach of these rights is subject to Polish and international law.