The Suicide Plan

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I think our society is very confused about liberty. I don’t think it makes sense to force women to carry children they don’t want, and I don’t think it makes sense to prevent people who wish to die from doing so. I feel there should be notice boards reminding everyone that the right to physician aid in dying is not a spreading infection that will afflict those who deplore it. Just as my marrying my husband doesn’t damage the marriages of straight people, so people who end their lives with assistance do not threaten the lives or decisions of other people. Opponents of the right to die often express as outrage what they appear to experience as anxiety; they can express as moral rigor what is in fact merely fear.

“Just as my marrying my husband doesn’t damage the marriages of straight people, so people who end their lives with assistance do not threaten the lives or decisions of other people.”The Suicide Plan does an excellent job of portraying the lived nobility of people who help relatives and friends to die; the ambivalence that clings to this as to all major decisions; the immense love that is needed for the final letting go. It also limns darker matters: that people may seek suicide for “the wrong reasons”; that people who spend their lives helping others to die are frequently creepy and are sometimes on their own peculiar power trip; that everything turns sordid when access to lethal medications is restricted. It accomplishes a great deal.

It leaves out, however, a crucial group, who seem not to be in the film even by inference: the vast number of people who would like aid in dying and have no access to it, who live in agonizing pain and see no relief in sight. There is an idea that if we don’t allow aid in dying, we are protecting people from the possibility of harm, and there is reason to believe that. But in our rage to protect the next Jana Van Voorhis, for example, we subject people — far more people in my own view — to gratuitous agony. There is...
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