Last night, apparently (I didn’t see it), Sir Terry Pratchett and some other people were talking about ending their lives as a result of an assortment of nasty, and chronic, illnesses.
Almost unbelievably, Pratchett was roundly abused on Twitter, and accused of cowardice by people best described as fuckwits (here’s a thought – it would be interesting to see how you buggers would deal with Alzheimer’s, see how brave you are).
Personally, I think Alzheimer’s is one of the best arguments for terminating one’s own life that there could possibly be, along with many forms of cancer. It’s an illness that systematically erases everything that goes into making the individual what they are. Put simply – so that tweeting cretins can understand – Alzheimer’s destroys everything that makes you you, though in your cases that might be an advantage.
You will have no memory, no dignity, no real knowledge of how to behave, little or no self-awareness, and, eventually, it will kill you, though you’ll be past caring (though I have a horrible suspicion there might be a spark of awareness suffering through this process of degradation). Better by far, in my view, to get out with your mind and dignity (mostly) intact, while you’re still capable of making the decision and carrying it through.
And if anybody seriously believes suicide is the cowards’ way out, they clearly have a hell of a lot of growing up to do.
As I think I’ve said, I have my exit strategy in place for when it’s needed. If I were to develop cancer then that would be more or less immediately, I wouldn’t hang around – there is nothing brave, or virtuous, about suffering through the agonies of cancer.
Despite the fact that my life has turned to shit in the last 5 months (for those who’ve missed it, I might have a year left – 2 or 3, becoming increasingly disabled along the way, if I’m really lucky and my doctors stop dicking about), I’m not ready to go just yet.
Not because I think tomorrow might be better than today** – it won’t be, and it might well be worse – but simply because there’s still stuff, even with my limited abilities, that I haven’t done yet. And I might yet stumble across a doctor with a modicum of sense! Stranger things have happened.
**It wouldn’t be hard. At 10.00 I hit the bathroom to get ready to go out. Because I had so many breaks to sit down and rest, by midday I still hadn’t finished, and gave up.
However, if I become a burden to myself, or others, or if my pain becomes unbearable (again, for latecomers, I was struck by lightning in 1983 and, as a result, have been in excruciating, unremitting, pain ever since), then I’m getting the hell out – I have my suicide kit already prepared. It’s not sophisticated but it’ll take me off quickly and without pain, efficiently enough to ensure against resuscitation.
There have been times, very recently, when stepping out of the world was immensely to be desired (recent blog posts will tell you most of the why of it, though not all), and the pull of my suicide kit, in its hiding place, was increasingly strong.
Clearly, the pull wasn’t irresistible, as I’m still here. Not because I wasn’t cowardly enough, but because I wasn’t brave enough, and the incentive still isn’t powerful enough – yet – to overcome that.
I’m an atheist, have been since childhood, and I have nothing to fear from a non-existent vengeful god, but I found I wasn’t ready to be snuffed like a burned-out candle, either. Nor do I believe, like the more demented Christians, in redemptive suffering – there is no virtue whatsoever in pain, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.
As I said though – and how did this become about me? – I’m here for a while yet. There’s still stuff to do, beer to drink, people to piss off… Hell, I might even get laid!
As for those who believe suicide is cowardly, I’m quite certain that, beneath the abuse, the bravado and the bullshit, they really feel angry because they simply don’t have the balls to do it themselves.
See also this post on the right to die issue.