Who “Wants” to Die?

By Cyberquill 11/05/2014Leave a Comment

Brittany Maynard

Some years ago, a distant in-law relative of mine, having just been informed by his physician that his cancer had recurred and briefed on the various treatment modalities available at this stage, declared that he didn’t wish to go on living “under these circumstances,” drew one final breath, and dropped dead right there in the doctor’s office.

Having thus effectively committed suicide by thought, he had spared himself the weighty decision of whether to seek external aid in order to release his soul from its ailing mortal coil.

The late Brittany Maynard (shown above in an almost unbearably charming pre-glioblastoma snapshot—truth be told, I am writing this post primarily as a pretext to beautify my site with this picture), who recently, at age 29, elected to ring down her final curtain by way of ingesting “a lethal mixture of water, sedatives and respiratory-depressing drugs,” legally acquired in accordance with Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, reportedly found the term suicide non-applicable in her case, as she was “already dying from cancer. I don’t want to die. People who commit suicide are typically people who want to die.”

But do most people who commit suicide really “want” to die any more than Brittany Maynard wanted to die?

Methinks not. Methinks everybody wants to live. It’s just that some people don’t want to live under a given set of circumstances that they, rightly or wrongly, feel powerless to alter. Absent these circumstances, they’d be more than happy to hang around indefinitely.

In other words, they don’t want to die, but they’d rather die than live on, things being as they are. Just because you choose something doesn’t necessarily mean you want it. Often, you’d much rather want something entirely different but end up going for that which you adjudge to be the lesser of two evils, and so you cut off your left foot instead of your right hand, even though you’d naturally prefer to keep both if this were an option.

The issue probably boils down to semantics, meaning it all depends on whether one defines want in absolute terms—in which case no one ever wants do die, self-slaughterers included, save perhaps the occasional oddball or aspiring new-age scientist that wishes to explore the undiscovered country’s bourn for reasons other than harboring any particular grievances with respect to his or her personal situation back home in Mortalville—or relative to certain undesirable factors, the elimination of which would invariably terminate all contemplation of death as the preferable one of two choices.

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