May 20th 2012

Assisted suicide a civil right

By MarieAlena Castle

I am a life member of Final Exit Network (FEN). Since my organization supports the work of FEN, I occasionally get calls from people considering a self-deliverance. (We don’t call it suicide because that suggests tragic, irrational haste. Self-deliverance is anything but that.) They never want, nor do they get, anything more than someone who will listen to them with sympathy and understanding when no one else will. They come to their own conclusions because it’s their life and they know better than I or anyone else under what terms they want to end it.

The FEN volunteers, of course, do more. Every effort is made to ensure that a client’s condition is hopeless, diagnosed correctly, unendurable (for the person!), and the decision to self-deliver is made calmly and rationally—and with no pressure or coercion whatsoever. There is no hands-on assistance at any point in the process. During a self-deliverance, all FEN actually does is provide a comforting presence so the person does not have to die alone. Certainly, having this ultimate control should be one’s final civil right.

Minnesota’s statute essentially requires that anyone doing a self-deliverance must die alone to avoid legally endangering a loved one. People who make and enforce such a cruel law are the ones who should be charged, as they obviously care nothing about the person’s rights or wishes. Yet, invariably, the persons charged are those who really do care, with a compassion that overrides the fear of legal persecution.

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