Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Right to Self Determination

So, this is a post that has been in the making for a long time.
Suppose this is how things happened:

If you did not want to go on living, you could make a formal application to that effect. If you have a reason like terminal illness or untreated depression et al, you can state that. Otherwise, you just mention that you want to go. To give this application, you must be above 18 years of age and should be of sound mind.

You have a waiting period of 6 months. For at least 2 consecutive months in these 6, you have to be in therapy actively.

IF, at the end of 6 months, your decision is unchanged, you make a living will to indicate what happens to your mortal remains and also a formal will to put your affairs in order.

Then, in a dignified and legal manner, you go. There is no need to attempt violent methods, no need to hide like a criminal and no need to feel guilty or isolated. If your family and friends are able to, they can be there to share the moment with you.

These are the risks with this approach:

A. The universal issue with self determination - when is it coercion or persuasion? Esp in matters of property etc?
To that, my response is, that such people are already put through enough mental and physical torture. Just giving them that provision is not going to increase the greed of the people around them. Today, such people are subject to unspeakable abuse. Elderly abuse is a separate issue. It continues to find avenues of expression. Some of them take away even this rightful self determination right.

B. What if someone changes their mind mid way?
In this case, it is far more possible for them to indicate this last minute change than in the other, secret, violent ways.

And here is what I think this will do:
1. End all those emotional blackmail episodes of "I will kill myself."
- I personally know of so many people who live under this threat of someone committing suicide and blaming them. I know it is a bluff, a weak emotional blackmail that is never going to be executed.  The minute it becomes possible to put an application, half that bluff will be called.

2. Make it possible for people to talk about depression, end of life thoughts and other things that need help, not censure.
There is no spur of the moment decision. You are promised non criminal passage. SO you are likely to put an application and wait. You are free to talk about it.  You can avoid stupid, violent, and potentially maiming accidents that come from spur of the moment or ill informed decisions related to "methods."
No one censures you. We are able to have conversations that listen, not just preach. We are able to train ourselves to listen and understand, rather than preach and blame and worst of all, patronise.These are conversations that need to happen from one adult to another.

3. End the violence in secret suicide "methods"

4. If you are a child under 18, and you know that you can put in an application and not be treated like a criminal, you are more likely to wait it out. 

5. Most importantly, we have to understand one thing. In the Western tradition, the concept of time is linear. Once you die, you are gone. In the Indian tradition, death is not a dirty word. It is merely the opening of a door. Our concept of time is cyclical. Even 2 generations ago, people spoke about passing on with their family as their time drew near. The families understood and supported this passage. Today, that vital understanding is rubbished by doctors who convince us to use medicines, drugs and other methods simply to prolong life - as if prolonging life was an end unto itself. It is not. Even today, the passing of a person who has seen extended family is celebrated, not mourned. If you go to rural India, you will see a much more accepting view of death. That view makes it possible for people to treat dying as a natural consequence of living, and not a traumatic experience that must be avoided at all costs.

Disclaimer: Yes, I have been a part of the people who are left behind after a suicide. I have gone through the guilt and the constant wondering and the non stop "Why?". I KNOW what its like to be in the immediate circle. But I also know what happens when we change the conversations. When we focus on the will of the person and not on the will of other people around them. When we talk of passing as a loving moment and not a tragic moment. It happened with my father - one week before he actually did pass. It meant a lot to him that I just UNDERSTOOD that he wanted to go. It meant a lot to me to give him that understanding.

The right to live includes the right to die. And no one should be made to feel like a criminal for that. Self determination is an important thing for a civil, free society.


Himanshu Tandon said...

There is a reason why people can not foresee future and a reason why human beings do not have a timer ticking on their head to tell them when they are going to die.

Much as I appreciate the writing in your article, I totally refuse to extend support to this right to determination.

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delhidreams said...

I would very much like this to become real.
Also, a good blueprint for a fictional narrative, what say?

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