It chills me to think the the press and public can rationalise that suicide is more acceptable or understandable in some circumstances than in others. How can one form of disability be a “better” reason for ending one’s life than another? Is this the beginning of a dangerous slope we’re taking where we move from “understandable” to “reasonable”? Could that lead to “logical”, or heaven help us, “expected”? I believe assigning degrees of justification for suicide places an unacceptable burden on the disabled.
20 Aug, 2014 at 11:27 am
Although I certainly have my lapses on this point, I don’t think any of us can comment knowingly on the interior lives of others, and I don’t wish to do so here, despite my sense of sadness for the person in question and the people left behind. But perhaps if there were different social attitudes about all forms of difference, including disabling diseases, whatever reaction he had to his diagnosis might have been less extreme. It saddens me that our being isn’t perceived as big enough, and rich enough, despite whatever challenges we face, that we can’t continue to live meaningfully beyond bad news, however severe. There are examples of people who do: Roger Ebert and Tony Judt come to mind. According to Wikipedia, “During his illness [with Lou Gehrig’s disease], Judt made use of the memory palace technique to remember paragraphs of text during the night, which he placed mentally in rooms of a Swiss chalet and then dictated to his assistant the next day.” I’m not saying it’s easy to live through hardship; but is “easy” all we aspire to?
20 Aug, 2014 at 12:32 pm
I tied to avoid commenting on the internal life of the person mentioned in the original post, or why anyone might consider suicide. My comment was on how the attitude in the media has changed (somewhat exaggerated) from “Oh how terrible! He didn’t get the support he needed” to “That’s a shame, but it’s understandable that he didn’t want to be a burden to his family“. This shift seemed to have happened when the conjecture about the reason for the suicide shifted from Depression to Parkinson’s Disease. It’s as if society is saying it’s more acceptable to end one’s life because of Parkinson’s Disease than it is because of depression. That is what I find chilling.
20 Aug, 2014 at 12:42 pm
Hi, Barry – I apologize if it seemed like I was holding up my response next to yours and seeing a difference. I was just making a general comment on the same issue, sharing your feeling that that kind of public response is upsetting. There’s a certain redundancy in commenting on people’s posts, I’m finding. For me, commenting is often a way of noting, “I read what you wrote and am having thoughts on the subject, thanks to you.” But to write simply that would seem likely to get old fast, so I try to say a little more than that… Anyway, I understood your intro to be a broader social observation / concern than a reaction specific to this unfortunate situation.
20 Aug, 2014 at 12:57 pm
No need to apologise 🙂
I think that sometimes certain aspects of my autism results in me understanding words and sentences but missing the message itself. A bit like not seeing the forest for the trees.
20 Aug, 2014 at 1:03 pm
Well, I’m glad you’re forthcoming about your reactions, because it helps me see the gaps and/or ambiguities in things I express – which is sometimes embarrassing for me to realize, but definitely helpful!
20 Aug, 2014 at 1:06 pm
Ummm, big topic Barry. I agree wuith EA – it is our perception of life beyond ailment that defines our response to the ailment. And a lot of that perception of unknown territory is a function of social views -lacking any personal experience. “He died from fear of disability” is the way UM put it so succinctly.
Fear of the unknown is very powerful motivator. Personally I find that a strong Faith is the only thing that helps me with that problem. Unfortunately science and logic are thin in those areas. If there wll be no “after” i.e. the patient is in constant pain and will only ever get worse- so there is no longer any value in life and never will be – I agree with euthanasia. In situations where some quality of life remains – i.e. Parkinson’s patients – I think that faith plays a large role in how much of that quality is accessible. Gettng people to see the value of faith in living a free and open life is another subject entirely. Bonne chance.
20 Aug, 2014 at 4:12 pm
To paraphrase you “perception is a function of social views“. It is those social views that I am concerned about. I’m concerned that attitudes expressed about acceptability of a suicide changed when when a different “reason” for it was suggested. There is an implication that the lives of people with certain disabilities are less worthy than the lives of others. This is the stigma that UM is referring to. I find that attitude very unsettling.
20 Aug, 2014 at 6:21 pm
Yes, but I would argue that these self-same social attitudes are real in the sense that they are the sum total of the feeings of the individuals making up the “social”.group. This is not always so (leaders and attitude makers can influence when personal knowledge is not available) but I suspect it is in this case. That would mean the way to influence the social attitudes would be to influenve the attitudes of the individuals who make up that group. And that means understanding why indivduals cannot or will not pursue futher life value after a debiitating disease Which brings us back to my arguument. In other words, each individual thinks it would be best to commit suicide rather than attempt to tease value from reduced capacities. Seeing the value requires faith and we are back where we started from. I fear our world has become too secular with faith only in science and knowledge – that which comes from outside us and is only intellectual- to put any value on life after disease.
But I know exactly what you mean – illness has become stigmatized : better to die than to suffer. I’m not sure how that can be changed Barry. But I’m open to suggestions.
20 Aug, 2014 at 8:31 pm
All I can do is speak out when I see incidents where stigmatisation occurs, hence the reblogging of the “Deeper Levels of Stigma post.