Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Darkness Darkness

"Metro Crisis Hotline, how may I help you?"

"I'm going to commit suicide tonight."

Not I'm considering suicide or having thoughts of hurting myself or feeling suicidal, but I'm going to commit suicide. My caller was a woman of my age who had suffered from multiple sclerosis for the last fifteen years. The disease had become advanced and she was confined to a wheelchair, was incontinent, needed constant attention and experienced intense pain. In the end she would die of complications from her disease, maybe in six months, maybe in a year. The end would be quite slow and ugly, a tremendous burden on her family and friends. This woman didn't want me to talk her out of her decision, tell her about all the people who would miss her or how things might change for the better. People would miss her, but things would not change for the better. She was going to do it this evening, she'd saved up the pills, a friend would be there with her, she'd planned this out. The Hotline supervisor waved to ask if I wanted to trace the call. I shook my head no, my caller only wanted to check in, say thanks for being there and to say good-bye. She was smart enough to know not to stay on the line long enough for us to track her down, smart enough to do this thing right. My hands shook when I terminated the call. I told the supervisor I was going to take a break, have a smoke. This is back when I smoked, back before Oregon's Assisted Suicide law.

Working at the hotline, I learned that for some people, certainly not everyone, suicide is a viable option, sometimes the best option. It's a personal choice, an informed individual choice. The Supreme Court made the proper and most humane decision in upholding Oregon's Death with Dignity law.

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