The difference between the right to die and suicide is the same as the difference between dignity and sadness. The right to die is a decision based upon terminal illness, as well as the body’s failure, and torment of inevitable pain.
The decision also considers the suffering, not only of the sick, but of their loved ones.
However, suicide is much different than this . . .
In the afternoon heat of a mid-August day, I stormed out of a group counseling session. I passed the other concerned patients in the live-in drug treatment facility. I passed my primary counselor that waved me over to inform me of our one-on-one session, and I stormed up the steps to the room where I slept.
The facility was an old Upstate motel that was turned into a rehabilitation center by an ex-drunk.
My room was up the steps and down the hall from the front lobby. I marched into my room and grabbed a pair of jeans from my dresser drawer. Next, I went into the bathroom and tied one of the pant legs around the sprinkler pipe and the other leg around my neck.
Then I leaned down and took a series of quick, deep breaths. I did this to make myself lightheaded. Once I achieved my goal, I stood up and then I allowed my body to hang from the noose.
I chose this way because I knew I would pass out and my end would be virtually painless and quick. Giving in, I closed my eyes and prepared myself to slip away —
But I survived.
The knot I tied around my throat was not strong enough. When I lost consciousness, my body shook in convulsions, which caused the knot to slip out from under my neck.
The next thing I knew; I was convulsing on the floor and slowly regaining consciousness.
I looked up and saw the pant leg still hanging from the sprinkler pipe. The pant leg that was tied beneath my chin swung like a haunting and unspoken definition of what just happened to me.
In truth—I saw death as a tool. I saw dying as an exterior solution to settle an interior problem. It isn’t that I wanted to die as much as I wanted everything to stop. I wanted a break, but the world wouldn’t give me one.
I needed to take a breath; I needed a minute, but I couldn’t figure out how to slow things down long enough for me to breathe, and breathe comfortably.
I had nothing to squash my emotions. There was no drinking allowed and there were no drugs to satisfy my system. I could not run away from my pain any longer and I felt as if there was no place for me to go. I was at the end of my rope—literally.
My suicide was less about dying and more about a means to an end. I admit there was a brief minute when I thought, “What about my mother?”
I thought, “What about my family,” but depression spoke over my thoughts and I chanted, “Just keep going.”
I said to myself, “Don’t stop.”
I said, “Don’t talk to anyone because if you talk to someone, they’ll talk you out of it, and then you won’t go through with this.”
There was nothing brave about this action. It was cowardly.
I submitted because I was too afraid to go on another day with the same fears and concerns. I was tired of feeling frustrated. I was tired of feeling out of place. I felt as if I never really laughed. And by laugh, I did not mean in temporary spurts. By laughing, I meant feeling the true substance of happiness.
I believed I could only bring myself but so close to the things I wanted most—and as soon as I felt my dreams graze the tips of my fingers; I watched them all disappear.
I believed in the cycle of life. I believed in the saying “What goes around comes around,” and since this was true, I believed my position was supposed to be in the underbelly of that cycle, and nothing more, because that was all I deserved.
The bravest thing I have ever done in my life was stand up from that bathroom floor after my suicidal failure. Next, I walked from my room and headed downstairs to meet my primary counselor.
He asked, “You okay?”
“I’ll tell you when we get into your office,” I answered.
The second bravest thing I have ever done was admit this story to my counselor—
so I could get help . . .
On October 27, 1997, Oregon enacted the Death with Dignity Act, which allows terminally ill patients to voluntarily self-administer a lethal dosage of prescribed medication. This is to spare patients of the terrible pain and suffering that come with terminal diseases. This too is a means to an end. And yes, this is also an external solution to an internal problem.
But this is not suicide.
Of course, there are those that disagree . . .
There are those that say this is unnatural.
They call it a sin. But they are wrong.
Had I died by my own hand; that would have been a sin.
Allowing someone to pass away without suffering is not
Nevertheless, I will change the perspective to help prove my argument.
On a Tuesday morning in September 2001, two airplanes flew into the tallest buildings in New York City’s skyline.
Victims could be seen at the windows. They were screaming and begging for help. But when help never came, the truth became obvious.
There were only two options; either the victims died in the fire and crumbled beneath brick and steal, or they could leap to their death and spare themselves the suffering.
Is this so different than the Death with Dignity Act?
Would anyone say this was suicide?
If so, how could it be suicide when their death was already on its way?
On November 1st 2014, as a resident of Oregon, Brittany Maynard decided to exercise her right to die with dignity.
She was 29 years-old and filled with life. She was filled with love and surrounded by those who mattered most.
There are those that say her death was unnatural.
Some call it a sin.
After being diagnosed with brain cancer, Brittany was given six months to live. She was advised that her final months would be tough and excruciating. However, rather than allow cancer to claim another death, Brittany Maynard was brave enough to take that away and claim her own life by passing as she wanted to.
She passed without suffering and on her own terms.
Brittany voluntarily administered a lethal dose of prescribed medication to stop the painful suffering as well as spare her family from watching an agonizing death.
Some call it a sin . . .
But I call that heroic. And that’s the difference.
That’s the difference between suicide and death with dignity