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[cancer] Assisted suicide and the will to live - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2013-11-13 09:03
Subject: [cancer] Assisted suicide and the will to live
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, child, death, family, friends, health, personal, radiantlisa
Yesterday someone asked me why, if I was so miserable, I didn't go ahead with assisted suicide, as provided for by the Oregon Death With Dignity Act. Voluntary euthanasia has been legal here for many years, the primary criteria being that the patient is mentally competent to request it, the request be made both verbally and in writing, and that the patient be terminally ill with six months or less to live.

While I frankly didn't appreciate the question very much, on reflection I realized it was a fair one.

The short answer is my will to live. As Lisa Costello has said, if will to live were sufficient for survival, I'd live forever. I can imagine letting go in the very late stages of my terminal decline, if I were overwhelmed by the physical and psychic pain of dying, but not short of that.

The slightly longer answer is that [info]the_child needs me. My lovers, friends and family need me. I need me. Like most people, I dwell in the center of an interwoven tapestry of love and obligation and joy and desire and support, and I don't want to tear myself out of that place any sooner than I have to.

The more complex answer, as simple as it may be on the surface, is my atheism. Despite thousands of years of wishful thinking and uncountable faith narratives from virtually every human culture, there is not one shred of objective, repeatable evidence for the survival of self beyond the death of the brain. When I die, I will experience personal extinction. That's not a belief, that's not a theory; that's a simple, empirical fact borne out by the experience of every human being who has ever lived and died before me. While I'd love to be an exception, given that basic truth of course I want to hang around the party as long as possible.

One final point: once I'm dead, I won't know the difference. But many other people I care about will. So for them, I live as long as I can.

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Chris McKitterick: Galaxy magazine cover
User: mckitterick
Date: 2013-11-13 20:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Galaxy magazine cover
Pleased to hear it, Jay. I completely understand your attitude on this, and it much reflects how I think I'll feel one day when facing the question. Heck, I never completed the act when contemplating it due to unbearable emotional suffering, and I had the means right at hand, so I suspect the same'll be true when I face the question for health reasons one day - as we all will, no matter how Kurzweil-esque our hopes.

Life and people and the universe and discovery are all so full of wonder, it's tremendously difficult to let go when something cool is always just around the corner... and ceases to be in our personal universe once we cease to be.

A local acquaintance has been arrested for 1st degree murder of a marriage partner, and everyone who knows this person (and the sick partner) has a feeling it was assisted suicide.

The toughest issues arise near the end of life, and we'll all support you however you face things. Your choices so far seem thoughtful and brave, and I hope your openness about things are helping others in similar situations.
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