With the death of Robin Williams, there has been a lot of talk about suicide and prevention. And I wonder if we humans have it all backwards. It is ironic that we tell women that they have the right to do what they want with their bodies; therefore, abortion should be legal and should not require the baby’s father’s consent. We want to legalize marijuana and many other illegal drugs basically under the same premise: my life, my body, stop dictating how we should live.
Well, how about if we stop dictating how we should die. Why is suicide necessarily linked to depression or despair. In most cases, it probably is. But that’s most likely due to the fact that we have stigmatized death and suicides. We human act as if death is somehow avoidable. Death is inevitable. We have no control on whether we are born or not; but once here we should have control on our deaths.
Robin Williams was in his 60’s; had already accomplished probably everything that he wanted to accomplish in life: he had a successful career, wife, children and was loved by many, He now was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and he had relapsed into his addiction. Suicide was probably a very rational decision by him. Probably not one made by desperation or depression, but by a realistic view of his life. He wanted to leave this life on top while his success was still palpable. Realistically speaking a cure for Parkinson’s is not around the corner. At 63 and with his organs probably in bad shape because of alcohol/drug abuse, he weighed his future quality of life. He probably did not want to see himself deteriorate to the point that he wished he were dead but would not be able to do anything about it. After all, we are all going to die sooner or later. So why not die sooner before living became intolerable and insufferable. Before others wished you were dead because you had become a burden.
If we are encouraged to control our lives, why not be encouraged to control our deaths. To have a say as to when and how we die? Don’t get me wrong. I think life should be lived to the fullest. Carpe Diem if you will. I don’t think that the decision to kill oneself should be taken lightly. If you’re young, healthy and with so much potential still ahead of you, please don’t jump off a building because your partner broke up with you or you lost your job or had any other disappointment. But if you already have lived a full life, and your life will only spin downward, and you choose to die, you should be allowed to do so. Settle your affairs, tie up all lose ends. Plan and pay for your funeral. Be part of celebrating your life by choosing when and how to end it. Have a “going-away” party while you still can. Forgive all those you need to forgive and let everything go. Live and die on your terms.