"I’m Thinking of Ending My Life"

Thoughts on end of life.

Posted Oct 01, 2020

 Ilariaurru, PIxabay
Source: Ilariaurru, PIxabay

Yesterday, I wrote about considerations in deciding whether to have a baby. Today, I turn to the opposite pole: ending one’s life. Here’s a composite letter and my response.

Dear Dr. Nemko,

I’m 75, have two so-called “underlying conditions"—heart failure and cancer—The docs think I have a year, maybe 18 months. You must have six months or less before you're eligible for physician-assisted suicide.

I know that my remaining time won't be life as usual. I’ll be getting weaker and with ever worse pain, plus treatments that probably won’t work well enough to be worth the side effects.

I’m scared to end it, and not because I think some miracle breakthrough might give me my life back. I’m scared because, even though I live in one of the ten states where assisted suicide is legal, as I said, you have to be within six months of dying. So, I’d have to off myself by myself. ... Now what?

Dear Now What?

I agree that it's humane to allow people to gently and reliably end their life whenever they want, often called “death with dignity” or “physician-hastened death.” I won’t offend you by asking if you’ve carefully considered the wisdom of your decision. It sounds like you have. But I can't resist asking a couple questions:

Do you feel any obligation to keep contributing for a while longer? There may even be things that you couldn't have done as well until you've lived a long time, for example, mentoring, if only your kids and grandkids.

More esoteric, other people and the fates seem to have granted you a decent life. Do you feel any obligation to enjoy the fruits longer, even if it's just to listen to music or stare at beauty?

Back to your desire to figure out how to end it. You might want to discuss your options with your doctor or, if you prefer, some other physician. DeathWithDignity.org suggests, “You are more likely to find a participating physician in a non-faith-based hospital."

Before you move forward, be sure you're leaving the legacy you want. Yes, it’s often wise to leave most of your money and property to family members, but sometimes that’s done mainly to avoid disappointing them. Of course, consider their feelings and extent of need, but also ask yourself where your life’s accumulation would do the most good, the bequests you’d find comforting during your final days.

Also, ask yourself how you’d really like to spend your remaining time: doing what, with whom or solo. For example, some people like to create a memoir, whether in text, audio, video, images, or a combination. If you’re not up for creating one yourself, perhaps a family member or friend would be honored to. I’d guess that developing it would be rewarding for you both.

In conclusion, at the risk of cliché, I wish you wisdom and contentment in facing this ultimate challenge.

I read this aloud on YouTube.