Among the safeguards slashed from the assisted suicide legislation that has become law in Vermont, were any requirements to ensure that the person requesting suicide is not suffering from treatable depression.
Depression in the dying is not uncommon. Hospice Pioneer Dr. Ira Byock wrote in his groundbreaking book, Dying Well, that nearly everyone who is given a terminal diagnosis may have thoughts of suicide at some point.
A recent study by psychologist Thomas Joiner, reported in Newsweek’s online journal, The Daily Beast http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/05/22/why-suicide-has-become-and-epidemic-and-what-we-can-do-to-help.html helps us understand why this is so. Joiner distills the basic elements that contribute to suicide to the following three conditions: Loneliness, burdensomeness, and, significantly, the ability to do it.
It’s not hard to imagine that a person who is given a terminal diagnosis might at some point worry about being a burden and being left alone. In the past, there was never any question that such people should be given support and assistance to relieve their mental suffering, prevent self-harm and restore a sense of meaning and hope to their lives. Even now,suicide prevention is still the goal of most public health programs.
Except, apparently, for the terminally ill in Vermont. For them–those who are most likely to suffer from the very maladies that might lead to self-harm–the State of Vermont has decided to offer the “treatment” of helping complete the triad of conditions required to commit suicide: “the ability” to do it, aided by lethal drugs, legally-prescribed by a “trusted” doctor.
We repeat: Enabling suicide is not a compassionate response to suffering.