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[cancer] Assisted suicide and the will to live - Lakeshore — LiveJournal
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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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Agent Mimi
User: agent_mimi
Date: 2013-11-25 08:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In my opinion -- not to be confused with reality, or with Jay's opinion, of course -- it wasn't framed politely. It was the standard passive-aggressive "if you're so miserable why don't you die already" kind of thing, and it was heinous, and was followed up with Ron, the one who posed the question, making demands on Jay regarding the content of his blog.

All that said, Jay has been remarkably kind, considerate and respectful to Ron, and Jay's reply here is tremendous. He's sharing immensely personal information with us by his own choice, and I don't think it's our place to demand more of him than all he has already given. Polite or not, demanding to know whether Jay or anyone with a serious illness has thought about assisted suicide seems less "fair" than inappropriate to me.
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