President’s Message

From President Brian Ruder | Spring 2021

Choosing Death… As opposed to letting nature and doctors decide.

In my last communication, I asked why more people don't want to discuss their options for dying on their own terms, even if they plan to die naturally. Following are my thoughts on three reasons people don't like to discuss this important topic.

1. Life is sacred.

Our society's attitudes toward suicide continue to evolve. There was a time in some cultures where it was considered noble to take one's life. At some point, religious communities decided suicide was not a good idea and set up rules against suicide. They created the stance that God gives life and only she can take life. Catholics made suicide a mortal sin. No wonder some people don't feel comfortable discussing the topic.

Many of us believe that if there is a God, she would understand that a good person who is suffering and takes his own life should not be punished any more. What kind of God or rational religion would require a person to suffer intolerably? We have a free will, but we can't use it to choose how we live and die? That logic makes no sense to me.

2. No competent person wants to die before they have to do so.

One of the reasons people are reluctant to discuss or choose death is that our society has decided that anyone who wants to die before they have to must have some mental issue. In many states, if you report that someone is considering suicide, the police are required by law to take that person in for evaluation. I had this happen to a very competent client.

Rational suicide is possible, but society does not yet know how to regulate it. People who want to choose death have to be strong, brave and willing to go against the mainstream, which leads to the third reason.

3. Only cowards take their own life.

A coward is "a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things." None of us want to be thought of as cowardly. Our clients who chose death were all courageous. They recognized that they had more time to live but chose to die because they did not want to live for a number of reasons ... intolerable pain, not wanting to end up in a nursing home, not wanting to run out of money, not wanting to be a burden to their family and friends, or in some cases because they had a constellation of medical issues and felt they had lived a complete life. They all met our medical criteria for acceptance, but the additional concerns weighed into their decision.

We should all figure out how we feel about dying and have a discussion with our family and friends. The discussion will make it easier when you approach death, regardless of the choices you make.

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