July 27, 2015

Who Should Choose Our Right to Death?


sad, girl, graffiti, wall

Life’s a beach, unless it isn’t.

Person A: How could you contemplate suicide when life is such a blessing?

Person B: Perhaps life is a blessing for you but it is not for me.

Person A: It is not a blessing for you because you do not see the positives. You are only focused on the dark.

Person B: It is a blessing for you because your negatives do not hold a candle to mine and thus you can’t possibly understand what I go through. And to you, life itself is positive, regardless of circumstance.

Person A: But if you don’t go through these negatives with a positive mindset and a strong will, you are not giving life a chance.

Person B: Again, you don’t walk in my shoes and thus your advice is overgeneralized and without context. Besides, you have your life and I have mine. What gives?

In the back and forth above, can Person B possibly be clear and sane? Or are they inarguably crazy, sick or depressed?

It is easy to have an opinion about this and feel very certain it is the right one.

As I’ve had this discussion on several occasions, the common view is that life is a gift and should be valued and treated as such. Expounded more, you do not waste it and you do not give up when the going gets tough. For most people with this view, there is no grey area. As both a coach and an inquisitive mind, I will inevitably dig deeper into this line of thinking. I do so not as a method of converting the thinking, but instead to determine if such thinking is absent of the views and experiences of the other side.

Terry Schiavo was an indirect example of the other side. To some, she had life and thus she should have been kept alive. The possibilities of her further experiencing this life and maximizing its benefits were simply too great to make a decision to end it. To others, she had life but “had” was an emphasized point: to them, she would never be able to enjoy life to the same degree she did prior to her condition.

There was enough fire and passion on either side of this discussion that her story became a national debate. There have been similar debates about assisted suicide in situations where a patients illness or condition rendered a severe degradation in quality of life. Whether talking Schiavo or assisted suicide, however, we’re talking medical issues. And while there may never be a consensus about which side is right, people can at least have a discussion about the validity of ending a life when severe and long-standing medical issues are in play.

But what if they’re not?

Can someone that is in good health have a rational view that life is simply not worth living? What might that discussion look like?

The Person A and Person B dialogue was a sneak peek into a real discussion between two adults. Person B does not want to live and can have the discussion about their right to choose without shedding a tear, masking internal pain or getting defensive. Simply put, they do not see life through rose-colored glasses and they find it a chore to go day in and day out through the routines.

Person A believes that life is a gift and anyone with the right attitude both understands and embraces this.

So who is right? I leave you with some questions and thoughts to further shape this discussion.

Some questions to consider:

  • If someone is born into this world without their consent or control, when do they get to decide whether they want to stay in this world without it being a punishable offense and without it leading to a default determination that mental issues are at play?
  • Does the view of the many outweigh the views of the few (or the singular) when such views directly impact the lives of the few (or the singular)?
  • Why does the ‘life is a beach’ mentality win out? And is such a view attributed to a religious belief, spiritual view or broad experience? If so, where does freedom of religion, expression and free will come into play for those that do not see the hot sand and beach balls?
  • If we are allowed and encouraged to have different views on so many things (abortion, LGBT rights, war, religion), why is the question of suicide and sanity so rarely discussed and so often seen as a cautionary tale?

Life is a beach for some and the opposite for others.

Yes, there are people that have emotional and mental issues that play a significant role in how they see, value and manage life, both theirs and others. Can we, however, open our minds to the possibility that despite this reality and segment of the population, it is very possible that not everyone sees life from the same rose-colored glasses and such views are, in fact, rational?

We have all had friends or family members use the phrase “I am not afraid to die” or “Life is too short to worry about.” In this context, people will do things that others may consider foolish or reckless.

We call these people thrill-seekers or risk-takers—or in some cases, just plain foolish.

We do not, however, diagnose them as crazy and lock them up.

Where is the line between their reckless or foolish behavior that could lead to a shorter life and someone else who views life as a ride that can end on any given day depending on their own views and wishes?





Brittany Maynard’s Right to Choose.



Author: Chris Armstrong

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: bixentro/flickr


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