Dan James, a 23 years old man sustained rugby injuries in 2007 that sadly left him almost fully paralysed. A year later he chose to die in Dignitas. His parents said that he had come to regard his body as a prison and was ‘not prepared to live what he felt was a second-class existence”. They accompanied him to Switzerland.
Here are some other examples of sentiments of those who have choosen this path
- I won’t be living those days, I will be suffering. (Terminal brain cancer)
- I know I am going too early. (Inoperable spinal tumour)
At Dignitas, a large part of their work is counseling with the aim of preventing suicides. Only a fraction of those who contact the clinic actually go through with the process of ending their own lives.
As an anaesthetist I have spent several unearthly hours with patients who have been brought to the Emergency Department after attempting to kill themselves. While we always did everything we could to save them, sometimes I felt like we should respect their wish as they would have gone to great lengths to achieve the result that they wanted. They often landed up in Intensive Care Unit and once discharged we never saw them again.
Now I think about it completely differently. There are unending arguments for and against assisted suicide. The most validating one being ‘to relieve suffering rather than hasten death’. Those who die unassisted may have the same argument. While we demand parity between mental and physical illnesses, euthanasia applies mainly to physical illnesses. Mental suffering is suffering too.
I really struggle with this issue.