By Anita Cameron
Suicide is devastating. Take it from someone who has lost dear friends to it. It’s an especially difficult death for families to deal with. Loved ones often feel guilt, wondering was there anything they could have done to prevent it. I, too, felt that horror and guilt after learning that a close friend had died by suicide hours after visiting me.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is a serious public health issue whose rates have increased approximately 36% between 2000–2021. It reports that suicide was responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021.
Many resources exist to inform the public about suicide – what it is, it’s impact on the country and on certain communities, the signs to watch for and how to prevent it – but no resource addresses the state sanctioned suicide masquerading as health care, that proponents call medical aid in dying [MAiD] but opponents call by its true name: assisted suicide.
Assisted suicide is a practice legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia, where a doctor, or in some states, a physician assistant, writes a prescription for a lethal drug that terminally ill patients – those with six months or less, to live – fill and subsequently take. No doctor or witness is required to be present, so no one would know if the medication was purposely taken or if the person was coerced or convinced to do so.
Proponents say that this is not suicide, but the Oxford Dictionary of English lists the definition of suicide as “the action of killing oneself intentionally.” Proponents refuse to call assisted suicide what it actually is, probably due to the stigma associated with suicide. One can call it all kinds of fancy terms that hide the truth, but don’t be fooled – assisted suicide IS suicide.
Though assisted suicide is supposedly only for those who are terminally ill, it’s hard to predict that, so doctors often make mistakes. There are countless stories of people living years or even decades beyond their doctors’ predictions.
Assisted suicide creates a two-tiered system where younger, healthier folks expressing thoughts of harming themselves are more likely to get mental health treatment whether they want it or not, while disabled people, who often lack access to such care, are more likely to have suicidal feelings rationalized, so are less likely to receive mental health treatment.
This is especially important when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness. It’s normal to become depressed after such a diagnosis. Mental health counseling, along with other services and supports should be offered from the beginning and tailored to meet the person’s changing needs.
Proponents rename assisted suicide as “aid in dying” so it sounds like end of life care. However, it is not. End of life care is all of the services and supports, including pain management, that a person needs to be as comfortable as possible while the dying process takes place naturally. Assisted suicide is just that – suicide. Death. No care.
It’s said that access to housing, healthcare, clean water and food security is suicide prevention. Getting rid of assisted suicide as public policy is also suicide prevention.