Tuesday, March 2, 2010

FRONTLINE: The Suicide Tourist

I had my TV on channel 13 (PBS), not really paying attention to what was on, catching up on blogs I haven't read in a day.  I then heard something that caught my attention.  I had to stop blogging to watch and listen. After listining for a minute or two, I thought to myself - I wish I had paid attention to the program from the beginning.  The topic was assisted suicide.  This man, Craig Colby Ewert, was suffering from ALS.  ALS is a debilitating disease, which eventually paralizes the victim's muscular system.  This, in turn, renders the patient unable to swallow or control bowel movements.  It's a horrific and dreadful way to live -- if you call that living.   During this stage of his disease, he is still able to speak, but needs help with daily activities such as, shaving, bathing, eating, grooming and pamper changing.  He is also assisted with his breathing with an oxygen tank.  He is deathly afraid that when he losses the ability to speak, people will think that he is comfortable and not in any pain -- since he won't be able to speak to tell them otherwise.  He doesn't want to continue to be a burden to his wife and children.  Hence, he wants to take his own life.  Alas Dignitas.

Obviously, here in the United States, assisted suicide is illegal.  So this man and his wife went to Switzerland to participate in a program called Dignitas, a non-profit organization that helps people end their own lives.  A social worker is assigned to him, and together they talk about him ending his own life.  The social worker conducts an assessment to determine if Mr. Ewert is aware of the consequences of his decision.  So, together with his wife, and the social worker, they make plans for Ewert to swallow a poison that will end his life.  You are probably wondering if there's a question.  Yes, there is.  But first, let me say this.  I am a social worker and believe wholeheartedly in the social worker's Code of Ethics, in which states that a person has the right to SELF-DETERMINATION.  With that said, what would you do?  What does "quality of life" mean to you?  Do you believe humans have the right to take their own lives?  How were you raised?  Were you raised to believe that suicide is a sin?  If yes, have you changed your views since becoming an adult?  I know these are difficult, personal questions, but I would like to know.  What do I think, believe?  If my life got to the point, where I could not longer feed myself, go to the bathroom on my own, talk, breath on my own, or lived in a vegetated state, PULL THE PLUG -- PLEASE!!! 



  1. This is an extremely tough question - and no matter how much we want to, there will never be general rules. I know Dignitas is under criticism in Switzerland, too.

  2. Both Oregon and Washington have passed 'right to die' laws, with strict guidelines in place for the doctors. So far it hasn't turned out to be the big disaster that the critics feared it would.

    I don't believe suicide is a sin, despite being raised Catholic. I would want my misery ended, as would Brian and we've talked about that. We both know that if one of us were vegetative or in so much pain from a terminal illness, we'd want to die.

  3. This man knew what he had a head of him, none of it good. I applaud him in his strength to take this step.

    A boy I teach has ALD, not a related condition, but just as debilitating, and suffered by young boys who may not make it to adulthood (see the film Lorenzo's Oil). This boy, at 16 has been completely paralyzed for more than eight years, and can usually blink yes and no. That's it. No one asks him THAT question. If I were his mother, I would.

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  5. Every case is different, which is probably why there is so much criticism to laws and organizations like he above. Your post sparked me to think about this, and while I still think there are no general rules, I know that I would not want to live "like a vegtable". I was raised Catholic, BUT I still believe that people should be allowed to go in peace and with dignity.

  6. My Babe did it. The church administration have not allowed to bury his body at a christian cemetery, because in their eyes he was as sinner.
    Hypocritical wankers!


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