Jane St. Clair’s young sister, father, and mother all died of cancer. In this interview, she talks about being with them when they were dying in hospice and how these experiences changed her views on assisted suicide.
Jane’s novel, Walk Me to Midnight, is a chilling medical thriller guaranteed to keep you up reading all nightlong until you reach the horrifying conclusion. It also presents some logical reasons against assisted suicide not necessarily based on religion.
To buy Walk Me to Midnight, go to Purchase Walk Me to Midnight.
Q. How did you come to write Walk Me to Midnight?
First, I was with my mother, sister and father during their long deaths by cancer. I was with them when they died. They were very vulnerable, but the hospice nurses knew what to do and how to help us. That’s why I dedicated Walk Me to Midnight to hospice nurses.
Second, I was doing a lot of crime writing and became very interested in forensic science. I wrote two Law and Order television scripts and one CSI that placed high in national contests. I wanted to do a pro-life thriller.
Q.Do you think a terminally ill person should have the right to commit suicide?
Anyone can commit suicide at any time so getting assisted suicide laws passed is not about anyone’s personal right to do anything. Committing suicide may be against the law, but after you’re dead, you can’t be prosecuted or punished.
People who want to commit suicide can do it themselves. The idea that they are so sick that they can’t fire a gun or take some drugs is just untrue. Usually if you have a terminal illness, you know how long you left to live. You have ample time to commit suicide. If you are too sick to swallow, you don’t have that long to live anyway.
Q. What about people who cannot move, like the late Christopher Reeve? How can someone like that commit suicide?
Assisted suicide laws are about the terminally ill. Often they are written in such a way that you need medical proof that you are actively dying.
People in wheelchairs are not terminally ill. If you start writing assisted-suicide laws for them, who’s next? Old people? Developmentally disabled children? Depressed people who want to die? Again, such laws imply that these people are living lives that have no value and cost society too much to maintain.
There are wonderful organizations such as “Not Dead Yet” that are actively fighting the implications of assisted suicide laws.
Q.Are you against laws that legalize assisted suicide?
Yes. I don’t like giving any state the right to kill people – whether it’s by execution or sending them to wars or through euthanasia. Giving the state that right opens us up to too much abuse of the power. Hitler started out by killing terminally ill people, hopelessly insane, and severely mentally retarded. It was hard for him to get the Germans to accept the idea of euthanasia, but once they did, it was easy for the Nazis to perform all kinds of killings for state-approved reasons.
Q.Do you believe that doctors should be able to prescribe lethal doses of drugs or give injections to end a person’s life if that person desires?
No. The doctor’s job is to protect life and heal disease. The vast majority of doctors don’t want to kill their patients and it’s not fair to ask that of them.
Q. Why are you against laws that allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses to terminally ill people?
An old saying in law is that bad cases make bad law. When a situation is too complex, there is no way to write a good law that covers every situation. There are too many variables. Assisted suicide is like that. Do you treat a 21-year-old the same as a 95-year-old? How do you determine competence in someone all drugged up? How do you determine Terri Schiavo’s desires when she left no written instructions?
Also, the Netherlands experience teaches us that even if you have two doctors to supervise each patient’s “suicide,” there is plenty of room for corruption. Insurance companies and often the person’s relatives have personal stakes in having that person die quickly. It saves them money, allows them to inherit quicker, or allows them relief from the burden of the person’s care. Often these are unconscious motives. Studies have shown that when there are assisted suicide laws, dying people feel obligated to end their lives prematurely. When given a choice, most people want to live as long as possible.
Q.Why do you think so many Americans believe in assisted suicide?
First, they are thinking only in terms of themselves and not in terms of society. They look at someone like Terri Schiavo and say, “I don’t want to end up like her. I want control.” You have to look beyond your fear and your desire to control your death to the implications of such laws for society.
Secondly, they want the sanction of society and doctors to do something that is traditionally a moral wrong. They want approval for committing suicide. If you don’t think it’s wrong and you want it for yourself, why do you have to involve society in your decision? Why indeed?
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