Jane Devine: Suicide is something we should talk more about, because there are times when it’s the right, or only, thing to do
Just over a week ago, Tony Scott, the film director, took his own life by throwing himself 184 feet off a bridge into Los Angeles harbour.
Rumours that he had terminal cancer then emerged, but a conclusive post-mortem is weeks away. No matter the result, it started people talking about death and whether or not it is right to choose to “go early”.
I absolutely believe that your life is your own and yours to end if and when you want to. I especially believe it if a person has a terminal illness, which they believe will mean that they are forced to live out a life they don’t want. A life different from the one they had.
Life does change when you have a terminal illness: apart from the physical and mental difficulties and the often painful decline, you can end up feeling like a stranger to your own existence, even when nothing has changed apart from the fact you may have a tumour inside you.
People will treat you differently and you will discover that it’s not just your own feelings that you have to cope with; it’s the feelings of all the other people in your life, too. Some people can cope with that. For others, it can be too much to deal with.
But choosing to die in this country is not straightforward. Despite campaigns from people like Dianne Pretty, who died in 2001 and Tony Nicklinson, who died just a few days ago, we still don’t have the right to be assisted to die, without those assisting us risking prosecution.
So, for those who are able to, why not plan a good death; your own death; on your own terms; that you can carry out when you want to? Why not decide to die when you are still able to really live?
That seems incredibly taboo in a nation where we don’t really talk about death, let alone suicide.
Suicide always seems to be something to avoid, prevent and campaign about. But perhaps we should start to talk about the situations in which it is actually acceptable. We are, after all, all going to die. And, if I am in a situation where I have the option, I want to die well. The best way I can see to do that is to decide when and how to end my life, myself.
I would not be surprised at all if, as a consequence of not listening to the pleas of people like Tony Nicklinson, we actually see a rise in the number of suicides of people who know they are going to die and don’t want to wait until they are too ill to do anything about it themselves.
The Human Rights Act gives every person the right to life. Why is it so difficult for us to countenance it being extended to give everyone the right to a good death, too? After all, whose life is it anyway?
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