By Jane St. Clair
A while ago I made a common sense argument that there is No Such Thing As An Assisted Suicide because suicide is by definition something you have to do yourself.
Compassion and Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society, is the main group that goes around pushing the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide. Now they want to get rid of the term “assisted suicide.”
Writing in the August 15, 2014, Letters to the Editor of Economist magazine, Robert Wood of Compassion and Choices in Washington, says that “prescribing ‘life-ending drugs’ to patients is ‘aid in dying’ and legally it is not deemed to be ‘suicide.”
“‘Assisted suicide’ is a term that frames the issue differently and wields a stigma on the dying,” he wrote. “True suicide rightly deserves that stigma.”
That sounds mean to me. Most of us don’t think people who commit suicide deserve our judgment and societal stigma, including Robin Williams who died yesterday. Most of us can at least understand what despair might feel like.
Don’t you think “aid in dying” sounds like sci-fi doubletalk? Like something out of Divergent or Hunger Games or some other dystopian novel? After all, an “aid in dying” is not a doctor helping dying people but a doctor who goes around poisoning patients.
To me, the true aids in dying are the selfless hospice nurses who take care of terminally ill people and ease any temporary pain they may feel in their process. When I think of an aid in dying, I think particularly of a heavy-set nurse with dreadlocks who took care of my mother. Her feet were swollen from overworking, and she had three kids at home. Yet she came to our house at four o’clock in the morning after I phoned her agency to tell them my mother had died. She was asleep at home, and she did not have to come, but she came anyway. She thought I might need a hug. She was kind. She was compassionate. She was the one who cared. She was the aid in dying.