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 about suffering and death.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Future generations, if they exist at all in a viable manner and with enough oxygen to think, may reflect with modest pity over the chief characteristic of the newest incarnation of the Technocratic Golden Age. To echo the remarks of late Glenn Gould, the Canadian pianist, about golden ages, there’s been quite a lot of them. We left off on the note of irrational reasons for suicide, in which Rational Suicide becomes interpreted, more properly, as Irrational Suicide or (Ir)Rational Suicide. When does suicide not make much sense to most people, most of the time?
Faye Girsh: When there is hope. For a cure, for better living conditions, for better relationships, for greater enjoyment of life. But it’s impossible to put ourselves into the minds of people who seem to feel their suffering is unbearable, permanent, and getting worse. We hate to see it in healthy people without visible or treatable causes of suffering.
Jacobsen: What mental health problems can feed into suicide as a public health issue rather than an end-of-life planned ceremony with proper ratiocination about it?
Girsh: Loneliness, the expense of being old and sick, expansion of mobility and communication aids, easier access to good long–term care. Mental illness and concussion-related brain injury. Continuous, irrational wars.
Jacobsen: Some fear mass suicides or increases in suicides if euthanasia, dying with dignity, rational suicide, physician-assisted suicide, and so on, become legal and accepted throughout cultures. Does this hold empirical weight? What does science tell us – the statistics?
Girsh: Certainly, the rate of assisted dying in those countries that make it legal shows an annual increase. But that is not mass suicide, merely a choice between methods of dying. In the U.S. it is really hard to get help to die for most people and our suicide rate is soaring. If those people had more peaceful ways to end their lives — and some oversight and help — it would lower the high suicide rate of people using violent and uncertain means. I don’t think there is good scientific data on this issue.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Faye.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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