A suicide note that should be read by everyone


QuebecCanadian
+4
#1
When you read the letter that Gillian Bennett left us, you are struck by its abundant clarity of thought and its total lack of self-pity. It is a suicide note that should be read by everyone, especially those who remain uncomfortable talking about a person’s right to die with dignity.

On Monday afternoon, Ms. Bennett dragged a mattress out to a favourite spot near her hilltop home on B.C.’s Bowen Island. She downed a lethal dose of barbiturates and chased it with a shot of whisky. Jonathan, her husband of 57 years, helped her lie down. Unhappy with the stool he was sitting on, he left briefly to find one more comfortable. He returned two minutes later to find his wife in a peaceful repose. She was gone.

She was gone but not before leaving us a clear-minded explanation as to why she decided to take her own life. It can be read in its entirety at deadatnoon.com. Ms. Bennett’s mind was being ravaged by the effects of dementia – a “stealthy, stubborn and oh-so reliable disease,” she wrote in a note composed over the past couple of years.

“Ever so gradually at first,” she continued, “much faster now, I am turning into a vegetable.”

Ms. Bennett, 85, a brilliant psychotherapist, was aware that there would soon come a time when she was no longer competent to guide her own affairs and she wanted out before that day arrived. She was already forgetting the most basic of things: where she kept the coffee; where the backspace tab on her computer was; the name of the book she was reading. She did not relish the prospect of being committed to a medical institution when her husband was no longer able to care for her.

“Understand that I am giving up nothing that I want by committing suicide,” she said in her farewell note. “All I lose is an indefinite number of years of being a vegetable in a hospital setting, eating up the country’s money but having not the faintest idea of who I am.

“Each of us is born uniquely and dies uniquely. I think of dying as a final adventure with a predictably abrupt end. I know when it’s time to leave and I do not find it scary.”

Ms. Bennett’s note is written with the kind of clear-eyed pragmatism that can only be admired. Keeping her “mindless body” alive would cost Canadian taxpayers up to $75,000 a year, she estimated. And for what good reason? Nurses would find themselves perpetually changing her diapers and “reporting on the physical changes of an empty husk.” It was ludicrous, wasteful and unfair, she thought.

She also didn’t want to become a burden to her husband and two adult children, who would not be able to communicate with her in any meaningful way.

Jonathan Bennett was feeling “miserable” when I spoke to him this week. Not because of the decision his wife made – he supported it – only because he missed her. “It’s been a long time since I had any practice living without Gillian.”

He said it was his wife’s hope that her death would provoke more debate on a subject that urgently needs discussing. She imagined a day, he said, when everyone made out a living will that articulated how they wanted to die. And she hoped that the medical profession would eventually mandate the administration of a lethal dose to end the suffering of a terminally ill patient in accordance with the instructions made clear in that will.

It is not for me to say whether Gillian Bennett did the right thing. She believed that it was ultimately her right to decide the terms under which she left this good earth and it is impossible to argue with that.

The manifesto she left us should not be wasted. Rather, we should honour her life by using her thoughts and words to help further educate us on a critically important matter.

“Today, now, I go cheerfully and so thankfully into that good night,” Ms. Bennett said in her final words. “Jonathan, the courageous, the faithful, the true and the gentle, surrounds me with company. I need no more.”

A suicide note that should be read by everyone - The Globe and Mail

DeadAtNoon (external - login to view)
 
B00Mer
+1 / -1
#2
Sorry don't want to get all depressed today, I'll pass.
 
SLM
+3
#3
While technically this is suicide, I do really wish the distinction would be made between choosing to take ones own life because of depression (which can be a transient state) and making an end of life decision. The distinction is important. This woman was 85 years of age and did not make this choice to avoid what might happen, but because of what would inevitably happen. She had lived her life, her prognosis for the remainder of it was not good. This is not some 15 year old who has been bullied and had such low self-esteem that they wanted to end their life, this is not someone who was suffering from a condition that, if treated, could have given them many more years of life enjoyment (such as mental illness). This is someone at the end of their life span. Whether it's cancer, or ALS, or alzheimers, when the prognosis is terminal it makes all the difference in the world.

The discussion that needs to happen is not about suicide. It is about end of life care and what individuals, when they are of sound mind and body, wish for themselves at their own end.
 
MHz
#4
If it is illegal, don't mess it up.
 
coldstream
+1
#5
I'm quite unimpressed.

You'll never convince me that suicide is not a coward's way out.. regardless of the circumstances. Any kind of spiritual view of existence sees that a life condensed or imploding at its end, often in conditions of hardship or pain.. is also life at its most incandescent.. revealing and redeeming.. the end of a journey in which a destiny (apart from your own will) plays the ultimate role.

Only modern society deems a life free of challenges or cost as that worth living... and the courage to see it through as of no value. It's part of the Culture of Death that permeates Western society these days.
Last edited by coldstream; 4 weeks ago at 01:41 PM..
 
MHz
#6
So taking your like when your body is broken is illegal but legally you can blow up women and kids and that is considered living a life full that is grand and noble?
 
QuebecCanadian
+2
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by coldstreamView Post

I'm quite unimpressed.

You'll never convince me that suicide is not a coward's way out.. regardless of the circumstances. Any kind of spiritual view of existence sees that a life condensed or imploding at its end, often in conditions of hardship or pain.. is also life at its most incandescent.. revealing and redeeming.. the end of a journey in which a destiny (apart from your own will) plays the ultimate role.

Only modern society deems a life free of challenges or cost as that worth living... and the courage to see it through as of no value. It's part of the Culture of Death that permeates Western society these days.

Each individual is the only one who can deem the value of their life. I'm pretty sure she didn't really care what anyone else thought except those close to her. She wanted to end things on her terms not as some empty shell.

Sounds to me as though you are saying "ending the journey" in hardship and pain is somehow more meaningful?

Personally I believe the easy thing to do is nothing. It took a lot of courage for this woman to carry through on this decision but it was also a selfless heroic thing to not burden her loved ones with the guilt and pain of seeing someone so close gradually lose memory of their existence and her own.

Courage to see it through? She would see nothing but her husband and children would for who knows how long.
 
MHz
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by QuebecCanadianView Post

Sounds to me as though you are saying "ending the journey" in hardship and pain is somehow more meaningful?

.

It means he has never been pushed very hard.
 
WLDB
+3
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by SLMView Post


The discussion that needs to happen is not about suicide. It is about end of life care and what individuals, when they are of sound mind and body, wish for themselves at their own end.

I'd say its both. The stigma on suicide and mental illness makes things far worse than they have to be. The same applies to assisted suicide of a terminally ill individual.

Quote: Originally Posted by coldstreamView Post


You'll never convince me that suicide is not a coward's way out.. regardless of the circumstances.

No one has to convince you of anything. Its an individuals choice. If you don't like it, don't do it. Thats all there is to it.

I know several people who have committed suicide (including a relative) and do not consider what they did cowardly in any way. It was preventable and sad and difficult, but Im not going to judge them for that. They are no more cowards than a person succumbing to a physical illness is.

Quote: Originally Posted by QuebecCanadianView Post


Courage to see it through? She would see nothing but her husband and children would for who knows how long.

Indeed. My grandmother died from dementia. Mentally she was gone for a good five years before her body finally gave out. That was not pretty and was very hard on everyone. If this option were legal at the time she would have taken it. She knew she was slipping and spoke of it in the early stages. Her worst fears were realized both for her and the family.
 
SLM
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by WLDBView Post

I'd say its both. The stigma on suicide and mental illness makes things far worse than they have to be. The same applies to assisted suicide of a terminally ill individual.

But the difference is, for me, I would never in a million years advocate suicide for mental illness as an option because mental illness doesn't kill you, cancer does, ALS does, etc. I think there are definitely times when life should be fought for, I just don't see the need or the point to fight for it when that life means certain suffering. We extend more humanity to a dog than we do to people.
 
MHz
#11
How about Robgin Williams, fairly healthy and not starving or destitute but just massive depression that could not be treated apparently. With the mentally ill how do you determine that they know what they are asking for?
 
WLDB
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by MHzView Post

How about Robgin Williams, fairly healthy and not starving or destitute but just massive depression that could not be treated apparently. With the mentally ill how do you determine that they know what they are asking for?

Mental illness like physical illness doesn't care about how good the rest of your life is. Whether you are rich or poor, have a good family or not, a good job or not and sometimes whether or not you have access to treatments. When it hits, it hits. People who either have never experienced it or never known someone who has don't seem to understand that. They are also alike in that there is no one treatment that will work for everyone. There are some people who have mental illnesses who get lucky and get the right treatments that work for them, same for those with physical illnesses. Others don't find it in time or at all. A friend of mine has schizophrenia and has had it for a long time. He just got onto a treatment in the past year which seems to be doing a lot of good for him. Before that it was 4 or so years of trial and error. 4 years can can feel like an eternity with that illness.

Quote: Originally Posted by SLMView Post

But the difference is, for me, I would never in a million years advocate suicide for mental illness as an option because mental illness doesn't kill you, cancer does, ALS does, etc. I think there are definitely times when life should be fought for, I just don't see the need or the point to fight for it when that life means certain suffering. We extend more humanity to a dog than we do to people.

Mental illness kills indirectly - through suicide. Its just as deadly as a physical illness can be. I also wouldn't advocate for assisted suicide for the mentally ill but in some cases they don't have many options. The mental healthcare system here and in many US states is sub par to put it mildly. If that were improved its quite possible more people could be saved and treated properly.

What would you consider dementia to be? Thats a case where it is both mental and physical. It degrades your brain and eventually does enough damage to kill you but still a lot of people don't want to make assisted suicide an option for them because they may not be in a proper state of mind to consent - even in the early stages.
 
MHz
#13
How many deaths called 'overdose' is actually a suicide?
 
SLM
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by WLDBView Post

Mental illness kills indirectly - through suicide. Its just as deadly as a physical illness can be. I also wouldn't advocate for assisted suicide for the mentally ill but in some cases they don't have many options. The mental healthcare system here and in many US states is sub par to put it mildly. If that were improved its quite possible more people could be saved and treated properly.

I would consider fighting for life in the case of mental illness to include fighting for appropriate mental healthcare. I know there are always exceptions but most mental illness can be at least be somewhat effectively treated. In other words, there is hope for a somewhat decent life. Is it absolutely "normal"? Maybe not, but then those who suffer from a developmental disability likewise don't have a "normal" life either, and they should have every chance to live.

Quote:

What would you consider dementia to be? Thats a case where it is both mental and physical. It degrades your brain and eventually does enough damage to kill you but still a lot of people don't want to make assisted suicide an option for them because they may not be in a proper state of mind to consent - even in the early stages.

Dementia, while it certainly has a mental component, is most predominantly an end of life issue, so I would treat it as an end of life issue.
 
Tonington
+4
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by coldstreamView Post

I'm quite unimpressed.

You'll never convince me that suicide is not a coward's way out.. regardless of the circumstances.

Or more to the point, why should anyone want to convince you? Your opinion of someone else doesn't matter- it's none of your business if someone wants to end their life peacefully, or if someone wants to drag it out to the end.
 
MHz
#16
Not everyone has to live to be 100 to decide this live is a waste of skin and time, why wait phase II is supposed to eliminate all that.
All those that need intensive care are the first ones to be denied any care when the crunch is on. or the facility is just bombed to save the people from having to make that choice.
 
coldstream
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by QuebecCanadianView Post

Each individual is the only one who can deem the value of their life. I'm pretty sure she didn't really care what anyone else thought except those close to her. She wanted to end things on her terms not as some empty shell.

Sounds to me as though you are saying "ending the journey" in hardship and pain is somehow more meaningful?
.

I'm annoyed by the heroic light that our society now puts on suicide.. because it fits into a pattern of a trivialization of life into a maudlin formula of pleasure seeking as containing life's full and only substance.. free of any higher responsibility or purpose. And yes i am saying that life is never without pain and hardship. How it is dealt with gives life its meaning beyond one's own Free Will and temporal condition.

Suicide is actually not against the law.. it will always be a free choice. I just object to portraying this as something noble.. or something brave.. it is neither.
Last edited by coldstream; 3 weeks ago at 01:34 PM..
 
darkbeaver
+1
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by coldstreamView Post

I'm quite unimpressed.

You'll never convince me that suicide is not a coward's way out.. regardless of the circumstances. Any kind of spiritual view of existence sees that a life condensed or imploding at its end, often in conditions of hardship or pain.. is also life at its most incandescent.. revealing and redeeming.. the end of a journey in which a destiny (apart from your own will) plays the ultimate role.

Only modern society deems a life free of challenges or cost as that worth living... and the courage to see it through as of no value. It's part of the Culture of Death that permeates Western society these days.

If there's anything worth living for it's a good death.
 
Tecumsehsbones
+2
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by coldstreamView Post


Suicide is actually not against the law.

Which is probably a good thing, since I can't imagine a more pointless law.
 
El Barto
+5
#20  Top Rated Post
The underlining theme here is respect for ones choice , not judgement, that is too easy
 
MHz
+1
#21
The issues get complicated when it turns into an attempted suicide, do you help the guy back onto the chair or up the stairs, take 2? (ignoring the 'just say no' rule) Probably explains all the ones that are via 2 bullets to the back of the head.
No note, suicide by a coward.
Really long note, he should have been more of a coward.
 
DaSleeper
+2
#22
Just another incoherent post!
 
WLDB
#23
Quote: Originally Posted by SLMView Post

I would consider fighting for life in the case of mental illness to include fighting for appropriate mental healthcare.

Sadly thats a fight that is rarely won around here. Our mental healthcare system is a joke.

Quote: Originally Posted by coldstreamView Post

because it fits into a pattern of a trivialization of life into a maudlin formula of pleasure seeking as containing life's full and only substance..

You only live once so you might as well enjoy it.
 
SLM
#24
Quote: Originally Posted by WLDBView Post

Sadly thats a fight that is rarely won around here. Our mental healthcare system is a joke.

That may be but whether or not to fight for something shouldn't be predicated on the likelihood of winning but on the worthiness of what you are fighting for. Bottom line for me personally is what the prognosis ultimately is, when we are dealing with something, like ALS for example, where the prognosis is not only fatal but horrendous in it's final stage, it is entirely a different matter than an illness where some semblance of a decent life can be obtained. Even someone with a severe mental illness who must be medicated and/or constantly monitored can potentially have some joy, albeit small joys, in their life.
 

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