President’s Message

From President Brian Ruder | Summer 2021

Why do people choose to hasten their death?

States that have passed Medical Aid in Dying laws (MAiD), report that the most frequently reported reasons for people wanting to use the law are loss of autonomy, decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable, and loss of dignity. Are there other reasons why people decide to hasten their death but never get a chance to discuss? Wouldn’t it be better if doctors and families had a better understanding of all the reasons people have for hastening their death?

Final Exit Network has been conducting research based on our clients to gain additional insights into the reasons people consider when choosing to hasten their death. Not surprisingly, our clients also report that psychosocial reasons including no remaining close friends, running out of money, not wanting to move to a nursing home, or feeling like being a burden weigh in their decision. For many of us, this is not a surprise. We all have some of those feelings as we age. But we may not like to discuss them because they don’t seem to be socially acceptable reasons for not wanting to live.

It is important to understand, as best we can, all the reasons a person considers when thinking of hastening his or her death as they approach the dying period of their life. Having a better understanding of medical and psychosocial reasons a person considers in this decision process will make the conversations with doctors and family more meaningful and hopefully give the person more peace of mind.

The desire to hasten one’s death is never a simple one. There are many reasons why people consider hastening their death, whether they do so or not. One client indicated that she had no friends and had concerns about losing her home and having to move to a state-run nursing home as reasons for choosing to hasten her death. Of course, she had been diagnosed with dementia and was seeing concerning changes in her daily routines. Having dementia is how she qualified for FEN services, but the time she chose to die was influenced by the many psychosocial issues she was facing. I suspect that if people who are planning to hasten their death were given the proper forum, most of them would bring in other reasons why they are making this choice. I think these concerns play into the way older people feel as they think about dying and death in general.

It is hard for all of us to think about dying, naturally or by hastening. We all want to live as long as possible without having to suffer “too much.” That is where I believe every person has the right to define how much suffering is “too much” and should be allowed to consider both physical and emotional issues. We should feel comfortable discussing all the reasons that affect how we feel about dying and death.

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