Controlling the End

Just a warning, this My Two Cents is probably going to result in the greatest outrage of any I’ve ever done because it takes a non-emotional look at a very emotional issue: suicide.


We are being told that we need to have another “national conversation”–this time about suicide.  A couple of celebrity deaths last week and a report that suicides are up 30-percent in the last couple of years have everyone using the term “epidemic” for yet another issued.


I find it interesting that while traditional Judeo-Christian stances on all other types of social issues have been torn down–like homosexuality and divorce–our views on suicide remain deeply rooted to beliefs developed 3000 years ago.  After creating the idea of Heaven, early religious leaders must have realized they had also developed a conundrum: now that you have promised people idyllic eternal life, how do you keep them from wanting to go there immediately?  Therefore it was decided that suicide would have to be a grave sin–for which you would lose the opportunity to go to Heaven–leaving your soul to spend eternity in Purgatory or Limbo instead of paradise.  And so ending one’s life became taboo–and all efforts were made to keep people from doing it.


It was finally in the 1980’s that the idea that people should be allowed to control their lives–and how they would like them to end–finally gained some momentum.  It took an unknown former physician in Michigan–Jack Kevorkian, jokingly called “Doctor Death”–to bring physician-assisted suicide into the mainstream.  And while Kevorkian went to prison, a couple of decades later states started legalizing the practice.  And what do those who know people that choose that route always say?  “I’m glad they didn’t have to suffer anymore”.


But that desire not to see someone suffer does not extend to those with emotional or psychological turmoil.  Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain “had so much to live for”.  We are certain that all they needed was the right mind-altering drug or the right counseling program or to “think about everyone they would leave behind” instead of thinking about themselves and they would still be here living perfectly happy lives.


Maybe its my Libertarian streak or my atheistic beliefs, but I am not going to wring my hands or demand widespread interventions over this “crisis”.  For me, it will be their choice–and I will choose to respect it.


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