Monday, December 8, 2014


The right-to-die with dignity movement has been gathering steam and acceptance throughout the world. There appears to be a growing acceptance that the terminally ill should have the right to end their lives – to die with dignity.

For religious institutions it is the the thin edge of the wedge. Compassion yes, but could the criterion of “dying with dignity” not apply to all of us, regardless of age or medical condition? Should we not all be able to determine our own best before date, or more aptly put, our personal exit date? 

Every single time that someone I know has ended their lives, people close to them have been profoundly affected. Have they been more affected than if that persons life had been ended in a sudden car accident or a heart attack? Many argue yes. Suicide, they say is selfish. The person ending their life is thinking only of themselves, not those they leave behind. It is a cowardly act of the self-absorbed, the weak, the uncaring, the lazy and on it goes. However what we are really upset about is that we have lost someone, and they are the ones who have done this to us - we have no control. 

Ironically, everyone acts so surprised as if they care so much after people commit suicide. Where were those same people when these people were suffering and destitute? In fairness, the signs are often internal and impossible to see.

Contrary to what many people say, I think that suicide, at least by individuals that make a rational decision that they wish to choose the time and manner of their own death, is not cowardly.  The fact that we can not sit down and discuss the practicalities of our early retirement date from this plain of existence without being labeled as mentally ill speaks volumes for why we are so shocked when it happens. We cannot discuss it while we are alive. 

Many of the people I know that have killed themselves were not complainers, they were not selfish, they were not weak, they were not completely absorbed in their own problems and indifferent to the sufferings of all others.

They lived, burdened by depression, sadness and emptiness.  They finally found the strength to move on, to pass beyond the vale into whatever it is (if anything) that exists afterwards. They often lived for us, much like we force the chronically and terminally ill to suffer because we cannot bear to let them go. Who is really the coward or acting selfish? 

It is sad that some of us cannot cope with circumstances, stresses, commitments, jobs and the demands of life like others. Life is a precious gift, given to us by our creator. However, circumstances differ. We are told never to give up, that to do so shows values that are weak, insipid and corrupt.

Some say dignity resides in bearing one’s burden until the bitter end with as much courage as one can muster. Where is the dignity in being forced to live a lie, to be drugged into tranquility or a miserable existence? If you are willing to end your own life to get relief, the pain must be intense. Certainly that is not cowardly.

One does not have to be weak, a coward or mentally ill to end their own lives, perhaps they are simply exercising the ultimate act of self-ownership or the desire to seek relief.

Surely life, all life, is worth living but who are we to judge the pain others endure, the real or perceived lack of options, the unending mental and emotional darkness that consumes. 

The reality of how good someone may have it compared to the severity of another life does not diminish the severity of someone’s depression. It is an illness full of shame. It is heartbreaking that suicide is so shameful in our culture that more of us can't, or won't speak about it openly.

Mentally ill or just tired of living, is it wrong to set your own exit date?

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