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Can suicide by older adults who are not terminally ill ever be a rational choice?

By Derek Humphry

Original article: October 10, 2020

Nowadays it’s fashionable to use euphemisms for elderly suicide, self- deliverance and doctor-assisted suicide. Old age self-killing is now called the ‘completed life’.

The arguments for and against are already laid out in dozens of articles and books, almost entirely by academics and physicians (see Google). Thus, I will summarize mine as a 90-year-old lay person:

For a person over 70 who has declining health and scant happiness it might be logical to end their life if they so wish. Each person must decide for themselves, not go with a trend or somebody else’s persuasion.

Suicide in not a crime, nor is it such a disgrace as it was in older times, provided there is a reason.

I think this ‘completed life’ reason for leaving life should not be sanctioned or advocated or practiced by groups.

Life is a personal responsibility, thus whether a person hangs on to the inevitable end depends on individual medical circumstances, personal ethics and each person’s quality of life values.

But to have that choice in what I call ‘self-deliverance’ requires thinking and planning ahead. Many persons do not do so until it is too late or they are trapped in a nursing home or hospital.

Over my 40 years involvement in the movement for choices in dying (personal and lawful) scores of people have begged me for immediate help to die and I had no alternative in their particular circumstances but to say “Sorry, but you’ve left it too late.” Too many people want to lean on you instead of in advance deciding and planning themselves.

Nowadays we have broad public acceptance of assisted dying for those who are end-stage terminally ill and the hopelessly degeneratively ill – provided it is their rational choice. (Preferably this assistance is supplied legally by a willing physician.)

In my opinion, it is a step too far to offer assisted dying to the elderly or mentally ill. Outsiders cannot see into the minds of such requesters – what is their motive? Is their thinking balanced? What does their family think? What is the true state of their finances and their financial legacy? Especially in such a litigious country as America, potential legal problems abound.

If a person no longer wishes to live, then they could end it themselves, preferably by planning ahead and advising close family and friends of their intentions, thereby avoiding shock when it occurs.

4 October 2020

©2020 Derek Humphry