Death as a Prescribed Medicine

I don’t mean to sound suicidal or anything – but is the right to die a basic human right? Take a moment to digest what I just said.

Let me explain further.
We all get these very dark periods in our life, where we feel not just sad but depressed. You can feel empty, vulnerable, hurt, useless, stupid, helpless … you simply can’t bear life anymore – regardless of the cause.

“High Place Phenomenon” (HPP)

“High Place Phenomenon” (HPP)

Ever stand at an edge of a balcony and get the urge to jump?
Maybe it’s just me … but it’s not.
There is a study that terms this as “High Place Phenomenon” (HPP) – the study examined 431 college students, gauging their urges to jump from high places and whether that’s correlated to being suicidal. And guess what! Results proved the complete opposite of what you’d tend to think. Authors said that “the urge to jump affirms the urge to live” … more like a safety survival instinct that gives us this rush to be more aware.

The reason I reference this, is to give you an idea that not all suicidal stimuli are negative.

Now, let me go back to the question I raised in the beginning. Is the right to die a basic human right?

Now, let me go back to the question I raised in the beginning.
Is the right to die a basic human right?

Well some countries argue YES.
In specific Belgium and Netherlands.

They have laws that allow for what they call “Assisted Suicide” or a practice called “Euthanasia”.

Simply put by wiki: “It is a practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering”.

It’s some sort of a right to a dignified death, where the doctor/physician (not the patient) is the one who commits the final act (with full legal permission from the patient) – through administering life-ending drugs (oral or by injection).

This is where it gets interesting; people can generally sympathize / understand if the patient applying for this is suffering from a chronic disease e.g. Terminal Cancer. But what if I told you that not all of the people that “apply” for euthanasia suffer from Cancer, but instead had depression / personality disorder.

That’s the thing. Just because you can see a tumor in an X-ray and you can’t see depression – doesn’t mean it’s any less of a problem. It’s real. It’s a big problem. And it matters.

Euthanasia is not just for terminally ill people but also to those who feel completely hopeless. Both cases are suffering and both experience a diminished quality of life.

The numbers are shocking too.
There were roughly around 1,800 people choosing to die this way in 2013 in Belgium (& the numbers are increasing each year).

The law in Belgium doesn’t even state a certain age requirement to apply (as long as the person is capable to demonstrate capacity for rational decision making).

This is an ever ending controversial debate – Considering Suicide as a medical Treatment.

But to give you a better understanding of the topic – I think you need to consider the following first:

  • It must be clear that this has to be a very clear decision made by the patient. Must be their “Absolute Wish” to do so and they can turn back at any point of time “up to the point when needle is injected inside”.
  •  There is a whole process for the thing (quick summary)
  1. There must be a thorough evaluation of each applicant through multiple consultations. Ultimately determining the condition of “unbearable and untreatable psychological suffering".
  2. All therapeutic options that can help alleviate suffering must be discussed with the patients.
  3. At least one month must lapse from written application to decision.
  4. Patients’ family or significant others should be involved.
    However, consent is not required.

In other words, there is a strict criteria, which needs to followed and signed off by 3 doctors.

  • Having a "right" simply means having a legal conscious choice.
    However, It Does NOT mean you need to exercise it either.

There was a study done on the first 100 psychiatric applicants requesting euthanasia (77 women, 23 men; mean age 47 years; age range 21-80 years)

These were the results:

  • 48 of the 100 patient’s applications were accepted.
  • Among the 48:
    • 35 Patients performed Euthanasia (9 men and 26 women)
    • 2 Committed suicide before the procedure
    • 11 Patients decided to either postpone or cancel

48 People out of 100

At the very end 43 of the 100 patients had died (35 Euthanasia + 6 suicide + 2 Normal)

Out of those 11 patients that decided not to go through it:

8 explained that knowing that they had the option to proceed with euthanasia gave them sufficient peace of mind to continue their lives. They basically like the idea of having an “emergency lever to pull” when things get unbearable.

As these patients pre-planned for their funerals, they started to see how their loved ones cared, how things are even more real than what’s in their head, that living is a gift …etc.

Having read all the above, do you still hold the same answer to the question I raised?

Is the right to die a basic human right?
Should people be allowed to do Euthanasia?

Given that in essence we might be helping those 11 people or potentially stopping them from committing suicide and making them slightly change their views on life?
Maybe they’d still rather not live but still they are not willing to die yet.

... I’ll leave it at that.

But I’ll add some further questions that I’d love to hear your views on:

  • Is it really true that as a cumulative human race, we have run out of solutions and can only resort to death as a medicine?
    What if this study is not a 100% accurate, what If we realize that going forward no patients turn back nor visibly cheer up before they die – after all these changes of heart are not so common.

  • Is it really a debate for us to act/claim like we understand what some people go through?
    Is it absolutely a deeply personal individual decision?
    But human life/death affects people surrounding that person. Family, friends or even a military platoon – then this “right” affects others negatively in some sort – does that mean others should have a say too?
  • Do you think cultures and religion affect people’s decisions to be suicidal or apply for euthanasia in any way?
    Like in a society of well-educated Muslims or Catholics that are strong believers in God and fate – do you think it makes a difference? And if yes, do you agree that societies that obligate students to study religion at school are better off than others that choose to avoid having religious studies in their syllabus and instead resort to teaching Humanist values or “Non Confessional Ethics”?

  • Living in the 21st century, do you think technology plays a role in the solution or in the problem?
    e.g. Using AI and sentiment analysis Facebook can analyze/detect what posts to show you on your home feed. Do you think there should be an obligation to have them show “happy” or “positive” posts more?

    Do you think Virtual reality can play a role as a therapeutic medicine?
  •  With the rise of the entrepreneurial trend and startups. One major constant is failure.
    Do you think the entrepreneurial ecosystem is going to suffer or is suffering from major secret depressions and possibly even suicidal tendencies? or do you think entrepreneurial DNA accepts failure better and takes it as a driver to succeed on a next venture?
  • As we all grow attached to our phones and messaging more and more – is it making people less wholehearted and distant?
    E.g. Breakups in relationships with Ghosting (a simple block)

We need to build a better world.
A world that all sort of ideas are accepted to be discussed openly.
That reasoning can lead us all to some sort of conviction – regardless of commonalities or disagreement in religion or faith. Only through tolerance and a true genuine open heart and mind can we progress in building a better world for our children.

If you are reading this post and you feel depressed or just a bit sad, feel free to reach out to me and talk anytime. It’s always easy to open up to a stranger than to the closest people around us. I might never see nor meet you and I will most definitely not judge you – but you might find me as a very familiar stranger.


Ali Darwish

Business Development, Hyflux | an entrepreneur at heart | inspiring presenter | graphic designer | challenge junky | dreamer