From President Brian Ruder | Winter 2020
Why Don’t More People….
As a senior guide, I meet many courageous people who have made a decision to die before they have to do so. Some are in early-stage dementia, some have cancer, some have a constellation of medical issues that make their quality of life unacceptable to them. They have all met our strict medical requirements and told us that their families accept what they want to do. Some will die naturally and not use the inert gas method that so many clients use. Some will want me to be there with them when they die, and some will want to die with their families at a time of their choice.
After years of being with FEN clients, what puzzles me is, why don’t more people want to use our services to learn about their end-of-life options? No one can know if they will be able to die under their own will until the time they actually are confronted with the decision. I don’t know if I will be able to make the decision either, but I do have everything I need to end my life peacefully on my own terms.
I know that discussing death and dying is uncomfortable for most people. It just feels strange to talk about these issues. At the time I joined FEN, I did not discuss my personal feelings about death with my friends, but after being with a few clients when they died and realizing how important the topic was to these people, I became more open. And now as President, most of my friends know about my feelings and are supportive. That does not mean they are ready to take the next step, but they are open to discussing these issues.
As people live longer and face the many difficult issues of aging, I believe learning about end-of-life options can provide a better sense of control and ease anxiety. I can tell you for sure that every client I have been with expressed a sense of calm and thankfulness for having more control over their end-of-life choices. They no longer felt they had to worry about ending up in a state-run nursing home or adult foster care because they could not take care of themselves. Some were relieved because they felt they would not have to be a burden on their family or expend all of their funds trying to stay alive. But they all felt more in control and less anxious.
One of my goals as president of FEN is to work toward making the discussion of self-deliverance more socially acceptable. We ask our clients to consider acknowledging that they are ending their lives on their own terms, but of course we do not require it. When rational caring people end their lives thoughtfully and with their loved ones fully aware, much of the stigma goes away.
Advance Directive for Dementia
In Spring 2020 we introduced an advance directive allowing competent people to die naturally after they lose mental competency by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED). Our initiative will offer qualified members a way to sign up and get legal support should they have any issues trying to follow the directive.
We have just started a research effort to gather information on how psychosocial issues influence a person’s desire to hasten death. We hope that this research will not only assist us in our decision process for accepting new clients but also will produce a research paper for the general public that will allow more people to know about FEN and its important work.
And of course, we will continue to focus on our mission, which has not changed, of providing education to competent persons wishing to know about self-deliverance.