Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Lasting Impact of Suicide

DovesI've posted a number of blogs covering assisted suicide but few regarding the potential impacts of a suicide.   The following, taken from Colleen Mastony, Witnesses to suicide: A man takes his life, and those who see it are forever haunted, Chicago Tribune, Nov. 15, 2009, recounts the aftermath of the suicide of a 23-year old man in Chicago:

[T]he many strangers who witnessed his death still wonder who he was and why he chose to die. For weeks they posted messages to an online news comment board, sharing their questions, their sympathy and shock. Their lives, they say, will never be the same.

One man makes a point of telling his children that he loves them before he hangs up the phone. A doctor spends extra time with a patient who seems sad. An 11-year-old boy goes to bed praying for "the man under the blanket."


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There is a difference between suicide and assisted suicide - or Death with Dignity as the laws in Oregon and Washington are called. Depression or mental illness are often the causes of suicide, perhaps as in the case of the 23 year old you mention.

Death with Dignity is reserved only for someone who is already sentenced to a death by old age or a terminal illness. The patient does not want to die but knows that they must and wishes to avoid the horrors of aggressive, futile care at the end of their life. The patient must be terminally diagnosed, mentally sound, and the physician who prescribes the lethal drugs prevents that patient from exerting the horrible trauma of a violent death on themselves or their family.

As assisted suicide becomes more of an issue in our hyper-aggressive medical system, it is important to pick apart the subtleties of the terms, for the sake of patients' rights, our own understanding, and to discern a practical approach to these issues.

Posted by: Ann Neumann | Nov 26, 2009 5:21:59 AM

last i checked, we are all "already sentenced to death"; kind of a function of humanity, right? i don't know about you but aside from what my kids watch in the movies, i'm not familiar with any immortals walking around...

Posted by: DPW | Dec 17, 2009 4:29:07 PM

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