Assisted Suicide – Some data

Content Note: Suicide

Recently, Brittany Maynard, a young woman with terminal brain cancer, chose to end her own life. She deliberately made her death very public in hopes, I believe, of sparking debate and conversation.

I am still deeply busy in book proofs so cannot write much, but I tweeted this:

I stand by that argument. In theory, the right to access to physician-assisted suicide is one I support, I am concerned that in practice people encouraged to take their lives are those who society judges less valuable – not just the disabled, but certain kinds of disabled people, people lower down the disability hiearchy, people experiencing certain kinds of hardship we see as less ok than other kinds.

Here’s some data, courtesy of Lawrence Carter-Long, who is a powerful voice on these issues. This is an article published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. It is only one study. It is only 83 cases. But it asked about reasons why people commit physician-assisted suicide, and here’s what they found:

According to family members, the most important reasons that their loved ones requested PAD, all with a median score of 4.5 or greater, were wanting to control the circumstances of death and die at home, and worries about loss of dignity and future losses of independence, quality of life, and self-care ability. No physical symptoms at the time of the request were rated higher than a median of 2 in importance. Worries about symptoms and experiences in the future were, in general, more important reasons than symptoms or experiences at the time of the request. According to family members, the least important reasons their loved ones requested PAD included depression, financial concerns, and poor social support.

Control and independence. A future, knowable or unknowable. Not money. Not social support.

Which is too bad, because if it was money, that’s a problem we could fix more easily.

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