Do We Have the Right to Die?

Right to Die

Upon reading Try Harder with Your Mental Illness by Henrietta M Ross of The Triumphant Weed, I remembered a topic that has been on my mind lately—whether we have the right to die.

Though I preach hope and advocate that people try treatment instead of taking their lives, I wonder whether it is reasonable to decide to die when the pain is too great to bear and does not respond to any treatment.

I often feel disingenuous telling people that there is hope, for that is not always true. Some of us living with mental illness respond more effectively to medication, psychotherapy, support, exercise, good nutrition, meditation and so on. Some do not.

No one chooses to have “treatment resistant” mental illness. We cannot will mental illness away. Treatment does not always work. Still, sometimes there are options we have not considered, options supported by science, that just may work.

My friend Dyane Harwood chose ECT when medication failed her. ECT saved her life when she suffered deep bipolar depression. With the help of an astute psychiatrist, she eventually found that adding an “old school” MAOI to her medication mix helped.

I assume I will get some fire, and perhaps some concern, for this post.

Further Thoughts on the Issue…

People With Mental Illness Deserve To Die With Dignity Too, Arthur Gallant, Mental-health advocate

Assisted Suicide for Mental Illness Gaining Ground, Nancy A. Melville

“A first-of-its-kind report offers insights into the characteristics and outcomes of requests for euthanasia on the grounds of suffering related to psychiatric illness in Belgium, where it is legal in that country.”

“We found that when considering patients’ demands seriously, most do find a way to continue with their life,” Dr Thienpont said.

Euthanasia requests, procedures and outcomes for 100 Belgian patients suffering from psychiatric disorders: a retrospective, descriptive study (Thienpont, 2015, BMJ Open 2015;5:e007454 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007454)

“In Europe, psychological suffering stemming from either a somatic or mental disorder is acknowledged as a valid legal basis for euthanasia only in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.”

55 thoughts on “Do We Have the Right to Die?

  1. Pieces of Bipolar May 30, 2016 / 7:10 pm

    I appreciate this post. We all deserve to have options, and deserve the right of choice. Given my individual situation, assisted suicide is my retirement plan. This decision is not made on a whim. I’ve invested a lot of thought in it. I will be leaving no family or friends behind, so no harm will come to others. I exercise my right to choose should my quality of life not be worthwhile

    Liked by 3 people

    • Kitt O'Malley May 31, 2016 / 3:08 pm

      I completely understand and support your decision. My parents’ lives have been devastated by alcohol related dementia and vascular dementia. They did not plan for this. They did not plan for my father’s care even as his dementia grew worse over the years. My mother’s stroke was sudden and brutal in the damage to her brain.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy Gamble May 29, 2016 / 11:21 pm

    I think this is an important topic particularly because other parts of the world find the Right to Die acceptable. My personal view is that other diseases are treatment resistant and so the question could be ask in those cases as well. I am more of a proponent of let nature take its course. Its very difficult to support the Right to Die for people with mental illness because the very nature of depression as a disease is to want to die. Thank God I never had that option I might not be here today.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kitt O'Malley May 30, 2016 / 12:47 am

      In those countries where people with mental illnesses can legally obtain physician-assisted suicide, there is a process which people must undertake. The study whose link I listed goes into more detail.

      But, I totally get your point. When I experienced severe depression, I saw no way out. I believed that suicide was my only option to end the pain. I was wrong.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Aul May 29, 2016 / 2:40 pm

    I disagree with euthanasia. The “right to die” is like playing God…and so only God has that right. We are not the Author of Life, like God is, so it is prideful to assume that role. What’s more, because of Jesus’s agony on the Cross, suffering now has so much more meaning. Before the Crucifixion, it was virtually meaningless; but now all suffering can be united with Jesus’s. It’s a share in His suffering, and a way to grow close to Him. I know it’s hard for me to judge those that feel like they should be euthanized, but from an objective point of view, it is immoral.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley May 30, 2016 / 12:43 am

      Without doubt it goes against many, if not most, religions’ beliefs and values, and presents secular ethical dilemmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ordinaryneurosis May 29, 2016 / 2:32 pm

    I’m not sure what treatment resistant means… It’s so sad. I have asthma, it is controlled, but it’s not curable, does that make it treatment resistant?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley May 30, 2016 / 12:39 am

      Treatment resistant means that psychotherapy, medication and other interventions such as ECT have not helped alleviate or lessen extreme pain and suffering. Not talking about common unhappiness here, but harrowing pain which does not abate and which the individual finds unbearable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ordinaryneurosis May 30, 2016 / 12:55 am

        Ok. I guess I’m just thinking how long was the therapy offered for, how many meds were tried, etc. I’m just worried it isn’t really treatment resistant it’s just the right treatment has not been found. Maybe I’m being cynical. I do know people who have had years of meds and therapy to no avail.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kitt O'Malley May 30, 2016 / 10:48 am

          Those are exactly the right questions to ask. Plus, some treatment may come available in the near future that would help.


  5. Just Plain Ol' Vic May 29, 2016 / 11:43 am

    This is a touchy topic for sure. I think ultimately it comes down to having the right to decide how I live my life and asking others to respect my desires.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. hirundine608 May 29, 2016 / 10:22 am

    Personally? I’m a believer in karma. So, whatever that means? It behoves us to always consider the karma of our actions … Cheers Jamie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley May 29, 2016 / 10:28 am

      That it does. Not sure how that would affect the karma of our actions. Compassionate, perhaps, in certain circumstances. Must be decided by individual with medical/psychiatric support for the decision. Not decided by medical professional, but supported by medical professionals.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hirundine608 May 29, 2016 / 11:40 am

        Karma is a complicated business. Who are we to judge? Yet I try to maintain, right action. Even if not always successful. I happen to believe, it is a power of the universe and that humans are always quick to test it. Cheers Jamie

        Liked by 1 person

  7. vanbytheriver May 29, 2016 / 8:56 am

    In so many cases, it just seems humane. I’m looking at it from a geriatric point of view lately, but the sentiment has always seemed valid to me. An important post, Kitt.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kitt O'Malley May 29, 2016 / 10:24 am

      Honestly, I’ve been thinking of it because of my parents’ health issues (dementia, stroke, severe aphasia), but didn’t include that here. For another post.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. laurelwolfelives May 29, 2016 / 7:53 am

    Yes. I think we have the right to die. Nobody has the right to judge an individuals’ situation, until they have been there and been them. If pain is unbearable and somebody opts for peace by ending their life, far be it from me to criticize them.
    Sometimes….you just can’t go on.
    Thank you for posting this, Kitt.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. TradeRoutz livingStyle May 29, 2016 / 7:52 am

    Hi Kitt, I can totally relate to this. Why oh why do we have to continuously suffer the horror that nobody understands, cares about, or can even begin to get a grip on. Sometimes, an assisted suicide is the kindest way out of the hell of madness that cannot be contained, and every single day, the pain and horror gets worse. Great article.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kitt O'Malley May 29, 2016 / 8:33 am

      Thank you. I feared writing and sharing this post. I shared similar thoughts in an Alzheimer’s/dementia caregiver’s support group fearing reactions, and turns out I was not alone in my thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. dyane May 29, 2016 / 7:13 am

    I hope you don’t get any fire about this post, Kitt. This is your blog, your “living room”, and you have the right to express whatever you wish. If people disagree, they should do it with the utmost respect.

    Thank you for mentioning my experience & link to my Huffington Post article & blog.

    I read an intriguing article last night in the acclaimed Santa Cruz weekly “Good Times”, the paper that was edited by our friend Greg Archer for 14 years. The article is about a new form of brain therapy using a magnetic helmet. You and some of your readers might find it interesting.

    Here’s the link:

    Kids just woke up. Gotta dash!

    Liked by 3 people

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