Choosing to Die is an hour long documentary filmed and hosted by legendary fantasy author, Terry Pratchett. Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago and since then has wanted to commit assisted suicide when the disease makes it so he can no longer live the kind of life that he wants.

The video shows part of his journey in deciding how he should handle his death. Currently, it is illegal in any country to “assist” someone in suicide through an injection. However, Switzerland allows trained medical professionals to help someone kill themselves by giving them a glass of poison that the person must be able to drink without assistance. Before this poison is given, the person who wishes to end his life must be interviewed by those professionals and then the final decision is up to the medical professional on whether they will give the person the poison or not.

This is a great source of worry for Pratchett since with Alzheimer’s disease, he would essentially have to kill himself before he is probably ready to die as he must be able to coherently answer the medical professional’s questions and be able to give himself the poison. He cannot make the decision beforehand and have them carry it out at his request. Throughout the video you see him struggling with the question “when do I know the time is right?”

For him, a big factor is that if he can no longer write, then he doesn’t want to live. But again, by that point it may be too late for him. A famous Belgium author used the Swiss process several years ago and according to his widow who Terry interviewed used the same criteria for his decision….he could not finish the book he had started writing.

The documentary interviews and follows two individuals who do kill themselves through this relatively painless process. One is a 40-something year old man suffering from what I believe is MS. The other is an older man (I think in his 60s) suffering from another physical disease. In their cases, they felt they could no longer handle the physical pain and made their decision to die. This again, we’re reminded, is a luxury that Terry does not have since these two people still had their minds intact.

The show ends with the older man drinking the poison, falling asleep, and dying on camera. To say it is a tremendously sad event would be an understatement. His wife is next to him and holding his hand the entire time, trying to be strong for him. It isn’t until he is gone that she allows herself to cry.

That is a quick summary of what the video contains. I’ve included the YouTube link below for those who are interested in watching the documentary. Be warned, it is pretty heart wrenching.

My thoughts:
Although I completely understand where these people are coming from—wanting to die peacefully on your own terms—I cannot agree with it. One, this goes against my religious beliefs as a Christian. But removing religion from the equation, I can’t imagine ever agreeing with this process.

In many ways, to kill yourself (however you go about it) is completely selfish. I felt more sorry for the older man’s wife than the man himself. She had to put up a front in order to support her husband’s wishes and then has to live the rest of her life knowing that her husband would rather die than suffer on earth to be with her. That really hit home for me. I love my family too much to just give up on life.

Oddly enough, it seems that this is a subplot in Terry’s decision. His wife did not want to speak on the documentary because she does not agree with his desire to do this. She has asked him not to kill himself because she wants to take care of him in old age. He feels it is his decision to make and she doesn’t understand what Alzheimer’s will do to him eventually.

I really do understand Terry’s decision as well as anyone else who uses this route to end their life. Let’s be honest, life does suck sometimes. Among my many physical ailments, I’ve suffered with Crohn’s disease since I was eight years old. I’ve had two surgeries, countless tests, and currently give myself injections each month to keep things in check. At the worst of times, I’ve gone to the bathroom as much as two dozen times in a day and lived a soft food/liquid diet for nearly five months. And although it isn’t common, Crohn’s disease could kill me.

That being said, I hope that I never bend under the pain (physical or mental) that I may experience in my life where I might even consider this method as an option. I can honestly say that for every moment of pain, I’ve experienced a dozen moments of joy.

I just don’t want to miss those next dozen.

One Response so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    And your family doesn't want to miss those moments either!

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