Faye Girsh is the Founder and the Past President of the Hemlock Society of San Diego. She was the President of the National Hemlock Society (Defunct) and the World Federation of RTD Societies (Extant). Currently, she is on the Advisory Board of the Final Exit Network and the Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization. Here we talk choice in death and the rationale.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: One of the most enduring problems of human life is the lack of choice and, at other times, too much choice. The ability to will, or select one, behaviour over another available in the field of conscious purview.
One of the most profound binary choices in human life: to die in the due course of time by nature/others or to die by self-selection. What emotions enter into the discussion of a rational suicide?
Emotions seem like non-rational, not irrational, parts of life with particular and individualized rationales important for rational suicide to me.
Faye Girsh: Love is a big one. Being attached to a spouse, a child, grandkids, friends — and not wanting to give that up. Fear is another. For some it’s fear of the unknown, for others it’s fear of judgment at the Pearly Gates and of not meeting the criteria for Heaven or winding up in the other place.
For me, it’s fear of a difficult, prolonged death where I might lose dignity and control — and wasting lots of money spent on my care. I think for many it’s relief that the suffering is ending and gratitude that it can happen the way you want it.
Jacobsen: What thoughts enter into the discussion of a rational suicide?
Girsh: For many it’s a balance sheet with how much you’re suffering on one side and what you’re enjoying on the other. For some it’s not those dimensions but how life would be if you let it go on too long, like in dementia or ALS.
For others it’s boredom, loneliness, the feeling of having completed life and there being no more that you have to do or want to do. This balance sheet has to weigh future dependence, how you want to be remembered. How much money you want to spend on yourself vs your loved ones or the causes that you care about.
One couple ended their lives together so they could give $100,000 to their church. Others weigh their own contributions to the world or to their families and make a rational choice to end their lives when they feel they have nothing left to contribute.
What we call Rational Suicide involves this kind of thinking. It becomes irrational when a person cannot see her way out of a dilemma or a problem when there is actually a solution besides — and better than — death.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Faye.
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