Author Terry Pratchett Ponders Assisted Suicide

From Quill and Quire, this article caught my eye–I was slightly shocked by the headline, and even more so by the information I’d not known before, that there are countries that sanction assisted suicide. I don’t think there’s a possibility the United States will ever follow suit. Here, we don’t want to pull the plug, even if someone’s brain is mush. Much ado was spent over a woman who had been on life support for years and her husband wanted to take her off, siting the fact the doctors agreed her cognitive abilities were nonexistent. Her parents disagreed, and every stupid politician in the country decided they needed to weigh in on the subject before she was finally allowed to die. Naturally, the press didn’t cover the fact that when they autopsied her brain, most of it was in such as state as to be useless. Reality rarely plays a part in moral indignation, here.

The only person who pushed assisted suicide, died recently–without help. Jack Kevorkian assisted some people take their own lives and he was in prison for doing so.

So, Terry Pratchett wants to end his life because he has Alzheimer’s. I am conflicted on my opinion. I have dealt with this horrible disease firsthand and can say with certainty, that no worse fate can befall an individual. Yet during the years my father suffered from it, I held out hope of a breakthrough, a possible treatment that actually worked, if not a cure. By the time he was literally a vegetable, however, I could only hope he would pass away to end his suffering.

Obviously, Mr. Pratchett doesn’t want to reach that point–because you have no ability to speak, let alone make decisions. He was diagnosed at a relatively young age of 60 with a very rare type. He must still be functioning if he can make these kind of decisions. What possibility is there of some kind of cure within the next couple of years? And how fast will the disease progress? I don’t see any real progress out there, none that could help Prachett. And what I had put aside involving my father, was the fact that Alzheimer’s is fatal, you will die. So, given these facts. would he be wrong to end his life before it becomes unbearable?

He’s still writing, which I find amazing if he has memory problems enough to consider death.He does it by dictating and voice recognition. I am curious as to how good or cohesive the book he’s finishing will be, if the editor will be doing a lot of rewrites, or if Pratchett is able to write, but not remember what word is used for door, or key, or fill in the blank, because that’s a major problem for victims of the disease. 

The morality question doesn’t arise for me. I don’t believe that someone who takes their own life will make the universe angry. But I know that there are millions of people who believe differently, and they look upon Mr. Pratchett’s decision as against God’s will. My concern is the decision will be made too soon, before the last hope of a cure is gone.

If it were me? At this moment I just don’t know. There can be no more terrible feeling than to be losing yourself, the being you are. But, the human spirit springs hopeful and has difficulty resigning itself to the inevitable.All I can say is I pray feverishly that it *wont’* be me who has to make a decision like this one, and I only hope the best possible outcome for Mr. Pratchett, even if it means taking his own life.

Weigh in on your opinion.

5 thoughts on “Author Terry Pratchett Ponders Assisted Suicide”

  1. Not an opinion but a book recommendation: STILL ALICE, sad but not depressing–actually, somewhat uplifting–novel by a doctor who knows the territory.

  2. In a world where suffering has no value, assisted suicide looks like an act of mercy. It really is the choice of despair – when one has given up or lost hope of a better day. This is not to say that one can ever escape death. There is no better day that includes living forever. But assisted suicide is the definitive choice that however much longer I might live before I would naturally die, I don’t have any hope of good happening. It is a desperate choice.

  3. The thing that always amazes me about this debate is that if it were a horse or dog that was suffering and wasn’t going to get better, it would be considered cruel to prolong it’s life, but for humans it is – in many people’s minds – forbidden.

    And by some strange twisted reasoning (my opinion), the people who are most strongly against assisted suicide are often the same people who are in favour of capital punishment.

    I would think the idea would be to be allowed to leave instructions that if I’m in a vegetative state or in constant or unbearable pain, I would like to be put down. I don’t want to have to do it myself before I’m ready, but later on I might no longer have the control or mentality to do it for myself.

    BTW, I think I read recently that Oregon (or Washington State?) had made assisted suicide legal.


  4. I understand all of your reasonings. And I can’t say I disagree. But it never came to mind to take my father’s fate into my hands, for exactly the reason that he’d not left written instructions, and a little thing called the law. And I suppose as a daughter, I was selfish, and kept hoping against hope something would come along and change the outcome. My dad was a brilliant thinker–not a reader or intellectual, but a common sense logical man who could figure any mechanical or problem out with a little thought process. When that started to slip away, it was agonizing for him, and for us, who loved him. Of course, after awhile, he doesn’t know anything, and the survivors are left to witness his hell.

    As for animals being humanely euthanized, I think the reason people can’t look upon it in the same manner is because we have will, thought power, can decide our own fates, animals cannot. They cannot speak and say “I’m miserable.”

    One of the worse days of my life was letting my first dog go. I am selfish, I wanted him to stay with me. He wasn’t deathly ill, but his quality of life was terrible by this time, and it would have been cruel to continue it. Broke my heart. I can’t imagine deciding the same thing for a human–even if instructions were left for me to do so.

Comments are closed.