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Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

Yeesh, over a month. The progress bar has inched a bit further along but we’re still not in our new house. There’s less still to do than there was a month ago, though. I mean, there must be. It’s mathematically necessary, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s true.

I don’t have any original thoughts to share about Robin Williams, but I guess I can at least signal-boost the sensible advice I’m seeing repeated a lot in my internet circles, in case some of it hasn’t made it to yours.

There’s an organisation called the Samaritans, whose aim is to provide some kind of support to anyone in acute need of it. If you’re lost in the world, feel you can’t cope, or are simply desperately sad, and there’s nobody whose personal relationships you feel you can rely on, the Samaritans are the ones who want you to know that they exist for this reason, and they can be contacted at any time.

Something else they provide is a set of best practice suicide reporting tips. Basically, for individuals who are especially vulnerable or experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are some ways they might hear about suicide being reported which will put them at a greater risk; whereas, hearing about it in other ways might make them more aware of the support options available and encourage them to make use of these. The Samaritans want to help make that second kind happen more often, and have offered some specific advice to this end.

Some amount of research has been done, and as a result advocacy organisations know a thing or two about the impact that reporting has on vulnerable people. This potentially life-saving knowledge is broadly ignored by the media.

Whenever you discuss things like this, though, please try and bear the information in the above links in mind. The things you say and do about a subject like this can really matter to people. Perhaps not as significantly as a tabloid front page, which seem to have more or less universally got it wrong (example links not provided), but you’re never too small to give some thought to how you’re affecting people and whether you could be helping them out a little more. Not even if you get as few hits as this place lately.

And it’s seriously not a free speech issue. I haven’t seen anyone get into that kind of tizzy over this advice, but I’m sure they’re out there. Discussions like this always seem to devolve into that kind of rabid right-libertarian defensiveness eventually. Yes, government restriction of speech is bad. I don’t want you to be arrested for using inappropriate terminology when discussing suicide. I’m just asking you to pay attention to what is known to prevent further deaths, and try doing some of that, rather than being an asshole.

It’s sad that Robin Williams is no longer with us. It’s sad that he couldn’t find the help and support he clearly needed while he was alive. Trying to make sure nobody else feels that way in future would be a worthy goal for our species. If you need to say more about it than that, regardless of being told that you’re putting people at risk or adding to the trauma already faced by many people, then you really need to look at yourself and your priorities.

Anyway, I suppose there’s no point being too frustrated over the newspapers breaking every sensible guideline and making things worse for everyone. Doing whatever makes you money while not giving a shit about negative externalities like the deaths of non-customers is basically what capitalism is.

Also, everything Dean Burnett says.

See you in, I don’t know, another month maybe, for another progress report, and perhaps some actual sodding progress this time.

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Now that I’m awake, here’s one isolated thought about the Pratchett-inspired right-to-die discussion.

At times, the conversation on assisted suicide takes a similar trajectory to the debate around rape.

Bear with me on this.

For some, all human life is considered sacred and should never be forfeit, however miserable and painful and pointless an existence it may have become. But many people, while willing to admit that it wouldn’t always be a moral abomination to allow someone to end their suffering, are still uneasy about endorsing any sort of legal sanctioning of euthanasia.

While the basic idea might be relatively uncontroversial, they’re worried about the unwanted consequences.

They’re worried about the elderly and infirm feeling pressured to end their lives prematurely, for the sake of not being a burden. They’re worried about people giving up too early, and resorting to suicide before the options for improving or extending their lives have been truly exhausted. They’re worried about the potential for abuse of this system, perhaps by medical staff for the sake of convenience, in the case of patients with no available next of kin and nobody to represent their best interests.

None of these is trivial. These issues and more all need to be taken into consideration if we’re actually going to start changing laws or establishing institutions to help people end their lives. Nobody wants to just go running through the streets shouting “Free hemlock for everyone, come and get it!”

But sometimes – and this was evident in some of the response to Pratchett’s documentary – these concerns obscure the actual issue, and people lose track of whose benefit we’re meant to be doing this for in the first place.

Which is, primarily, people who are heading painfully and senselessly toward the end of their lives, and would like to just cut out some of the deeply unpleasant bit which is all they’ve got left.

I’m not sure quite why the rape comparison occurred to me, but there are some parallels. There are often concerns raised about people being wrongly accused of sexual assault, or how a particular legal approach might affect our societal attitudes more broadly. And these are non-trivial issues which absolutely deserve to be examined in more depth than I’m going to here.

But, sometimes, these legitimate points can be amplified to the point where they drown out the original concerns of victims of rape or sexual assault altogether. When this happens, it ends up sounding like we should just give up trying to find ways to help mostly-women, due to fears of potential negative consequences for mostly-men.

We don’t have to assume there’s no smoke without fire when it comes to rape, and we don’t have to be lackadaisical about letting old people die. But we can still do something, and be driven by compassion. Don’t let’s forget who we’re supposed to be trying to help.

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Sir Terry of Pratchettshire’s recent documentary about assisted suicide has made for quite a notable occurrence. You can still watch it online, if you live in the UK or know some nifty trick to persuade your browser that you do.

Not all the public reaction has been positive, though, to what sounds like a basically humane and sensitive look at an important subject. Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship, for instance, has noted some facts that were not included in the documentary. I know, I was shocked as well to learn that a one-hour programme didn’t contain the entire history of everything. And oh look, Nazis!

Political Scrapbook is familiar with this guy’s rather tawdry-sounding organisation, and there’s not a lot needs to be said about it. But I’m sure some legitimate criticism of the assisted suicide movement may exist, and no doubt there are some important points to be considered which deserve more of an airing than this documentary afforded them.

I’m too sleepy to start getting all philosophical about it myself just now, but feel free to give me something to bounce off of in the comments.

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Dr Kevorkian died this week. There’s been significant support for his work on assisted suicide for some time now, but he’s still by no means universally shaken off the grim mantle of “Dr Death”. He spent a lot of years in jail, and more with serious legal restrictions on what he was allowed to say and do. He seems to have generally stood up to authority with commendable aplomb.

The whole euthanasia thing is tricky, but I think it deserved some more unapologetic support for the side of allowing people to end their suffering, and Kevorkian did a lot to help that.

Again, it’s the weekend, so no particularly deep thoughts. Feel free to argue with me below, though.

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