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Find below an interesting essay By Paul Russell that I reproduce under its Creative Commons license from Online Opinion. I think that Paul makes a quite persuasive argument that Dr Nitschke goes too far in trying to make suicide seem more rational than it often is one thing we can be sure of and taht is its not as sweet as its presented in Soylent Green
Bouquets to Jeff Kennett and the Beyond Blue organisation for their clear and appropriate condemnation of the actions, or rather inactions, of Dr Philip Nitschke in relation to the suicide death of a Perth man in the story that ran on the ABC’s 7:30 report a little over a week ago.
According to the media reports and to Dr Nitschke’s twitter feed, he is basing his defence, in part at least, on his claim that there is such a thing as rational suicide.
The idea that suicide can be somehow a rational choice is not new. In fact, an organisation exists in the UK called the ‘Society for Rational Old Age Suicide’ and there has been one study that I am aware of that canvasses the issue.
Dr Nitschke has consistently maintained that every adult should have access to the means to their own end. The faux lower limit, in light of this, seems more about trying to soften the public perception of this macabre death industry than it does about any corporate sense of public duty.
When we think of suicide we commonly understand that people who contemplate ending their lives will be viewing their problems through a very dark lens that does not, at that time, offer them any hope or possibility that what troubles them could be dealt with in a less dramatic fashion.
But there is always hope; there is always some other solution. Time, good counselling, talking to family and friends, taking exercise and a good night’s rest can all help us see past those solitary, dark moments. We can all help.
Some years ago now, my work with homeless and at risk youth gave me a very clear window into this issue. That’s why I’m so grateful for the work of Beyond Blue and other suicide prevention organisations. Suicidal people can often appear to be quite rational; their plan and their reasoning behind it, quite compelling. Were we to have accepted the assertion that any of these people should simply be left unchallenged and unsupported because they could put up a calm and cogent argument for their actions we would have been abandoning them in their time of deepest need. The intuitive assessment that suicide should be shunned and is never the only option is natural, normal and something hardwired into humanity. Thank goodness!
And while the argument about whether or not someone can be genuinely rational is, intuitively false – an oxymoron as one commentator put it – it is largely academic and should not be brought to bear upon suicide prevention nor our natural responses to those in need. The message would be a dangerous one and bears within it the distinct possibility of an implied endorsement of some suicides.
Think about it. At the end of this article and of every story on this subject we’ve grown to expect that responsible media will always carry a closing line saying something like: “If this article troubles you, phone…….. for confidential help.” If Dr Nitschke’s argument holds true, would public policy then demand that we add something like: “Unless you consider yourself rational; in which case contact Exit on….”? Yes, I know an example in extremis but I think it makes the point.
That the public commentary has focussed on the WA man is understandable in as much as he had direct contact with Dr Nitschke. But the ABC’s story also told of the suicide death of a 25 year old Victorian man who used the services of Exit to purchase information and thereby, a prohibited substance to end his own life. Nitschke’s defence here that the man lied about his age on a tick box on an Exit website is as ludicrous as is Exit’s self-imposed supposed lower age limit of 50 years for such services.
It is this supposed right-to-die that is the false over-arching philosophy by which the death of a young person can be somehow ‘rationalised’ by Nitschke and Exit. In 2010, in response to a Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine Report showing that two thirds of deaths in the preceding decade using the Exit drug-of-choice, Nembutal, were for people under the age of 50 with nearly one-third being younger than 40 and six being in their 20s, Nitschke said: ”There will be some casualties … but this has to be balanced with the growing pool of older people who feel immense wellbeing from having access to this information.” Tell that to the families of the two men featured in the 7:30 Report! Suicide prevention should never accept the notion of acceptable casualties!
And herein lies a bigger question which suicide prevention organisations and the Australian public generally need to come to terms with: How is it that we have somehow grown to accept that it’s okay for older people to seek to end their lives; that there’s somehow a distinction to be made about access to suicide methods and suicide ideation, generally, based upon age?
This notion that somehow ‘older people…feel immense wellbeing’ from having the means to kill themselves is very odd indeed. Certainly, studies on people who have accessed suicide methods in Oregon under their legalised suicide system do point to this as an outcome for some. But if we apply the same general thinking towards people who are suicidal as described earlier (and I argue that we should), we should be thinking clearly about the reality that there is always another way past presenting difficulties and dilemmas – even if these problems ultimately include advancing age or a difficult prognosis.
We should be preventing suicide by treating every suicidal person with equal respect and act the same in every case. If not, then aren’t we at risk of failing people in the same way as Nitschke’s cry for the recognition of rational suicide would?
It’s about time this macabre and clandestine industry was subject to public scrutiny.
“You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone ” is rattling around in my head this morning and that is because I am actually rather more, well, distressed may be a bit extreme, but I am quite bereft to be honest and its all about meat and the things that we hold onto in a quest for some certainty and predictability in our lives. Regular readers may recall that I previously mentioned that the butcher shop that I have been patronising for more than twenty years was to shut forever. well it has come to pass and I find that there is no seamless moving to another purveyor of the fleshly foodstuffs for me. When I did our shopping this week I went into another establishment that I have scoped out as a possible replacement I found the public part of the shop was lined with self serve cabinets and most of the meat was pre packaged. After about three seconds I just turned around and walked out profoundly disappointed. Yesterday I had to resort to buying meat from Woolworths even though I don’t like the way that they package their meat either.
The search will continue until I find a suitable replacement source for the family meat because I just can’t bring myself to continue succumbing to the perversion of pre-packaged meat. I feel the need to pick both the precise pieces of flesh that I want and to have it cut and presented as I like it. I don’t know any way to put it but the closure of may favourite Butcher shop has utterly disrupted my conceptions of the culinary arts and its going to take awhile to find that inner peace once again.
In mourning Comrades
Well now the mother of all by-elections is all over bar the shouting (and counting, assuming that its not stuffed up again) its good to see the leader of the opposition moving to reform the ALP to better reflect the diminished standing of the union movement in Australian society. The requirement that someone who wants to join the Labor party has to also be a financial member of a union is an anachronism that has surely been putting off a lot of people who might otherwise join the party. Now as much as I dislike the ALP as it is currently constituted and the polices that it pursues I do recognise the need for there to be a viable yin to the LNP’s yang and as the Greens are too loopy to be let anywhere near the levers of government a viable ALP is the best option and for them to be viable they need to be more reflective of the people that they purport to represent. So after Ray has picked himself up after discovering me writing something positive about Electricity Bill Shorten I’m sure that we will be in agreement that making Labor party membership easier and cheaper will be a good for the political landscape of this country.
What we know so far
• Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has gone missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing
• Boeing 777 was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew
• About 160 passengers are believed to be Chinese nationals
• Plane left KL at 12.41am local time and lost contact with air traffic control about two hours later
Updated at 3.11am GMT
There is almost no chance at all that anyone has survived the crash of this plane, its just the simple truth that when an aircraft crashes its generally always fatal unlike cars there are almost no design features in aircraft to make crashes survivable. Cue the usual claims about the “safety” of air travel that is based upon how seldom they crash when the true measure of vehicle safety should be based upon your chances of walking away from a crash.
with respect for the dead Comrades
I came across this today and it tickled my love of the bizarre way that technology tends to follow speculative fiction. In this case its all about the long held wish for a way to have a secular form of eternal life by downloading consciousness into a computer so that the essence of a person can go on long after their body has surrendered to death.
The service has been created out of MIT’s Entrepreneurship Development Program. When users sign up, they will link the service to their various digital streams, such as Facebook, Twitter, emails, photos and geo-location history. Once data is being collected, Ursache says there are two main processes required – “making sense” of it and then using it to “emulate” the user.
“Of course, ‘making sense’ and ‘emulating’ are still primitive today,” he acknowledges. “But by periodically interacting with this avatar, you will allow it to make more sense in the next 30-40 years that you still have to live. This way, it becomes more accurate and knows more about you in time.”
The ability of Eterni.me to “make sense” of the data it collects will be key, but is one of the most difficult challenges the company has to tackle. The service will analyze both textual and visual information to choose what information can be used to help an avatar better emulate the user. Direct interactions with the user will help to make the emulation more accurate.
Ursache explains that the end result should be a tool that people can use to find out more about their forbears, such as photos, family events, opinions and hobbies. He likens it to a research tool, such as a search engine or timeline, and is clear that the aim of such technology should be to help people.
“I think technology should make our lives easier, period,” he says. “If technology can help with leaving a legacy, or solving other problems for dead people’s relatives and friends – such as inheritance, access to information and so on – we should find a way to use it, of course without creating additional harms.”
A private beta of Eterni.me is expected in late 2015 with the public launch expected in 2016.
I don’t know if this is just an example of hubris or just a denial of mortality and I don’t know if it would really provide comfort or the creeps to those we leave behind when we cark it. What I do know is that there are likely to be people who will grab onto this technology in their grief at the loss of a loved one and that it may well even make them unable to move on with their lives. Further lets just imagine that the avatar becomes complex enough to be sentient rather than merely reflexive, will the simulacrum be the person it was derived from or will it be some new kind of monster? I just don’t know if this is a good or a bad idea so I will just await the wisdom of the Sandpit’s readers on this one.