Elder Suicide

Dear Anonymous Man,

I was deeply touched by your argument regarding the topic of ending your own life. Being in the healthcare field, I find myself mulling over the topic of ‘quality of life’ quite often. I sympathize for your situation- living far away from your children, having a wife that passed away many years ago, having pain when trying to preform activities of daily living; that must be very hard for you to deal with. My life has been personally affected by the suicide of another person, so I find it shocking that I understand where you’re coming from. Unfortunately, sometimes suicide affects the people that are left behind more than it affects the actual person; when you die, it’s over for you, and it’s your family and friends that have to pick up the pieces you left behind. It seems selfish though, for friends and family to think ‘how could he do this’, when perhaps its what you really wanted. On the other hand, it may also be selfish of you to not think of how their lives might be affected. Food for thought, perhaps.

It’s hard for someone of sound mind and body to talk about the topic of suicide, or argue objectively whether someone has the right to end his or her own life. I think each patient should be looked at case-by-case. One of my main questions is- what is your belief system? I believe that wanting to die so you could meet with you wife is heaven would be received much better than just wanting to die so that your life would be over. Would suicide be the means to an end, or the means to something greater? I feel that it is more justifiable for elders to want to take their own lives to prevent the imminent suffering that will be in the years ahead, being alone, and having your quality of life decline right before your eyes- which can also be hard for the family. When you are younger, in your teenage years or in your twenties, there is so much to look forward to, and dying by choice would prevent the experience of many of the beautiful things life has to offer. In that sense, I do believe that being near the end of one’s life does justify wanting to end it to prevent suffering- regardless of age. If someone is in a terminal situation they should be able to die a peaceful death; if there is a cure, this should not be an option. The ‘right to die’, in my opinion is the ‘right to a peaceful death’ and should only be looked at after all options have been exhausted and a cure is not possible. I feel that people in these situations do have a right to seek assistance in dying, so that they don’t have to go through extreme measures. I know it may seem grim, but as previously stated, I look at the quality of life and I’m a ‘quality of life’ pusher. So I do believe that individuals should have the right to seek assistance in dying. I also believe that there should be a medical order written by a doctor stating that the patient is terminal, and I also believe there should be a psychiatric evaluation performed. Perhaps there should be a panel of doctors deciding whether a patient should be able to take his or her own life. I believe that people should have the right to give assistance in dying. However, I do not believe a first year resident should have the right to decide or give assistance in suicide. I think that there should be a panel of well experienced health care professionals who aid in this decision and weigh all of the options, incase the patient does not look at something clearly.

Summarizing all of my views on assisted suicide, I do believe that some individuals should have the ‘right to die’ and should be assisted by medical professionals. Individuals under the age of 18 should have their parent’s permission. The ‘right to die’ should only be given when there is a clear and unpreventable decline in the quality of life in the near future, and suffering is unavoidable. I also believe that psychiatry services and mental health counseling services need to be in place for a period of time before the final decision is made. Kant, however, would not agree with my statements and views, because he feels that everything is either right or wrong, good or bad. My course of action would be parallel to the hypothetical imperative- making one decision as a means to another decision. So while maybe killing a living being is not moral- preventing the long term suffering would be the moral decision, but we would have had to make an unmoral decision to get there. Kant would stick to the categorical imperative, which would be not to assist or support suicide because it is immoral to take a human life.There are many aspects to consider, dear anonymous man, and I hope my points will ultimately bring you some peace in whatever decision you make.


Not sure where I stand


4 thoughts on “Elder Suicide

  1. I am sorry to hear about someone in your life committing suicide; that must have been unbearable to cope with. Thank you for sharing that with the anonymous man because I think hearing your story probably got him thinking about how committing suicide would affect the people in his life. It is interesting to hear your opinion on this subject because you are a nurse and probably see this kind of stuff a lot.

    Bringing up the point about wanting to die to be with your spouse was nice, but are you just saying that because of his age? If he was 40 or 50 and he wanted to die to be with his spouse would you be okay with him committing suicide then? Just to be clear here, you are basically saying that it is okay to want to die if you are doing it for a good reason, but if you are doing it just because you don’t like your life or don’t want to live anymore then it isn’t okay. I guess I just don’t see how it isn’t okay for someone to end their life because they are upset or sad, but it is okay for someone to end their life to be with their spouse.

    One last thing I have to ask is why/when would it be okay for anyone under the age of 18 to be able to have the right to die? In my opinion, they don’t know better yet, they aren’t mature enough to make those kinds of decisions, even with their parents’ permission. To me, their parent giving them permission to die is like the parent killing the child themselves.

    1. Im not a nurse yet, 9 more months! (god willing)
      I understand how you were taken aback by many of my thoughts. But, you see, I see these people in a different light on a daily basis. Elders- not being able to eat unless someone feeds them, soiling themselves in briefs and being at the mercy of underpaid and overworked health aids to just be comfortable, having sores form and their skin break just because they can’t move themselves. This is awful for people to go through, never mind the experience of having to watch a family member go through it. Its dignity, they loose their dignity and their independence and everything that makes them who they are. The only thing worse than going through this is being alert and of sound mind and knowing your body is giving out on you. If I could prevent that from happening to myself, I would- and I know many of my patient would too.
      In response to when a child would be able to take his or her own life- in terms of terminal cancer and other disease which entail unimaginable suffering. And that would be a very difficult situation to deal with. But I know I wouldn’t want to suffer like that.
      Its not black and white- but don’t you think its cruel to the child and the parent to have to go through this process of terminal illness. I wouldn’t preach unless it was part of the assignment- and I respect everyone’s opinions- there is more than one way of looking at it.
      I hope and pray that I never have to be put in this situation and God takes me in my sleep at a very old age- but some of us will be in these situations and its necessary to identify our feelings about it from an objective point of view so that if and when were in this situation we’ll have other opinions to consider.

  2. We are exploring our viewpoints on these difficult issues. You did a great job with this letter. It’s not easy to take a position, be sympathetic and explain your moral viewpoint at the same time.

  3. I agree with you as a fellow nursing student that it is understandable where he is coming from as an elderly person who is afraid of becoming dependent on others, and having the humiliation of not being able to perform simple tasks for yourself (having others assist you to the bathroom, etc). I also agree that it should be a panel of experienced doctors who would be assisting suicide, not somebody with minimal training and experience in the health care field.

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