Friday, 14 September 2012

Suicide and Euthanasia: Are they really that similar?

Hollow steps, pacing the room
The depth of uncertainty is clear
Streams of sweat soak into her dress,
Laced with withdrawal and fear.

A quiet whisper shatters the silence
The same one that’s to thank for this day,
Goading her onwards, her only support
She’ll find comfort, finally, this way.

Her gentle footsteps leave lasting marks
Like the ones that decorate her arms
A cry for help when her voice was muted,
“For attention” was her bodily harm.

No-one understands the pain she feels
But that voice, the one in her head,
The one that’s witnessed all of her suffering
The one persuading her she’ll find relief; dead.

One last glance out the window pane
At the life she once valued the most,
She closes the curtains, shuts out the world,
Welcoming the spirit of her ghost.

Standing on the chair she spots a mirror
For a split second, feeling quite reminiscent..
Looks at herself, she forces a smile
Her crystal blue eyes still they glisten,
Taking that step, darkness is revealed,
All she wanted was for someone to listen.

It was only by chance that I found out Suicide Awareness Day was September 10th this year. I stumbled upon a social network status about it, and was somewhat ashamed of myself for not realizing the day that was upon us until it was almost over. I went to bed that night, disappointed that I hadn’t contributed my support to such a great cause. Within seconds, I had this very pen in my hand and was writing the first few lines of the poem you just read. Those that didn’t read it, yes you may scroll up and do so now.
Not that I was ever directly affected by suicide, but even the element of knowing people in my community have been was enough to spark my interest in this subject. The amount of suicides you hear about on a regular basis is frightening. If you hear a familiar name, your whole body goes numb for a split second or longer. You may not have known them, but you knew of them and that’s enough to strike a chord in anyone’s heart. In one particular case I had been with the person only a few days before, and they seemed fine. “Seemed” being the vital word there. You never really know what’s going on in someone’s mind. The scary thing is it’s always the people you least expect. The ones who appear happiest. But that’s the killer part (excuse the pun) isn’t it? It is said that the individuals are at their happiest a few days prior; they know the pain won’t last much longer.
I would guess most of you reading this assume suicide rates are highest in teens and young adults. You and I are both wrong on this occasion. Suicide rates are highest in people over the age of sixty-five. Studies also show that while women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to be successful. The following is a list of only a few groups that have high suicide risk factors:
  • Older people who have lost a spouse through death or divorce
  • People who have attempted suicide in the past
  • People with a family history of suicide
  • People with a friend or co-worker who committed suicide
  • People with a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • People with long-term pain, or a disabling or terminal illness
  • People in certain professions, such as police officers and health care providers who work with terminally ill patients
Although suicide is a horrendous last resort, in some cases it is understandable. What I am referring to, is euthanasia; the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma. Take for example, the recent case of Tony Nicklinson, 58, in August of this year. Tony is paralysed from the neck down and has described his life as a “living nightmare” since he suffered a stroke in 2005. Yet the High Court in England denied him the right to end his life with the assistance of professional medics. His is not the only case to be turned down. Other cases occurred in 2001 and 2002, but also a successful one in 2004.
If people ask the question “Is euthanasia just?” there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone will have their own opinion and two-pence to share on the delicate subject, as have I. In my opinion, it should be entirely up to the patient themself. The prosecution and judges are not the ones that are suffering on a daily basis, yet they get to influence and decide whether or not a person’s life can be ended. I can understand that they want to be seen as pro-life, but at the end of the day they’re the ones that can walk out of the courthouse and forget about Mr.Nicklinson’s case for a while. Tony on the other hand needs assistance in every aspect of his life. He has no independence whatsoever. I bet if we put one of those judges in a wheelchair for the day, they wouldn’t last an hour. Add on top of that the inability to speak or communicate efficiently. It’s unbearable to even suggest someone stays like that for a day, nevermind a lifetime.
What I’m trying to say is that there are two sides to suicide. I’m not suggesting one is right and the other is wrong, but maybe we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about a person just because you heard they took their own life. Maybe what we should really be thinking about is why didn’t we notice their pain, what could we have done, and is there anyone that needs our support right now.

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