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On Suicide

A letter the Chronicle wouldn't print on July 9 2008

Dear San Francisco,
    $2 million to study how to waste another $2 million to disfigure the bridge so people fed up with life can't exercise their existential right to jump off?
    Come on! Here's a message from the real world. If you don't want anyone jumping off the Golden Gate because it's a costly and bothersome nuisance to drag their bodies out, then put up signs on the bridge rail telling them the truth.
    Put up a sign every 50 yards, illustrated EC Comics style, explaining that, "Hey! Hitting the water doesn't kill you. It just smashes your bones and adds a lot of pain and the panic of being a helpless cripple to the smothering horror of drowning in rude and icy saltwater!"
    And at the bottom of each sign put a number they can call to get suggestions and instructions for better ways to kill themselves.
    Better yet, pretend we're civilized here and sell 2-pill suicide kits without a prescription in every drugstore, consisting of a sleeping pill guaranteed to put you quickly and gently into a deep enough sleep for surgery and a time-release cyanide capsule guaranteed to kill you in 3 seconds while you're sound asleep "in the privacy of your own room."
    Oops! Did I go off nearly everybody else's screen there? Sorry. I can never get used to living in a whole world of cruel and dopy mystics, intellectual cowards, and piously hypocritical politicians.

-Glen Roberts

Way To Go (Prescription for a suicide pill set)

      The bottom line proof that we live in an uncivilized society is that we have laws against committing suicide OR against committing suicide before we have suffered enough to satisfy the religious idiots among us. In most of the world, the choice of peacefully, painlessly dying when we feel like it is forbidden.
      In fact, we're not even provided an appropriate word for it.
      The very hard shelled term "euthanize," very likely to be defined as "to subject a pet, a dog for instance, to euthanasia," is the only verb in the English language for the act of merciful, deliberately painless deliverance from the horrors of life, and any explanation of the term is bound to insist on its limitation to situations of extreme pain due to incurable diseases. Not only do the priests who rule us prohibit mercy killing, i.e. dignified self-chosen death, but their willing agents (co-conspirators), embedded pundits and philosophers, politicians, editors, and even language experts prohibit us from sensibly talking about it.
      But regardless of the mental condition of 99% of humanity, I am sensible. As long as my body is still feeling more good than bad, or at least good enough to justify enduring as much more of the bad AS I WANT TO, the only difference for me between going peacefully, comfortably and pleasantly to sleep each night and peacefully, comfortably and pleasantly dying, whether by my own hand or with the help of another sensible person, should be that I won't wake up from death.
      But, unfortunately, there are also a couple of over-empowered official forces who relentlessly get in my way if they can, who won't LET me choose to lie down peacefully, comfortably and pleasantly to death: (1) the religious idiots (including the media and the not-at-all secular law) and (2) the survival technology salesmen (including the medical and pharmaceutical businesses).
      But if those oppressive factions would shut up and get out of the way, I think the suicide pill set I envision could be easily made by professional pill makers using existing and immediately pending technology.

      The suicide pill set should include a sleeping pill guaranteed to put me as quickly and deeply to sleep as they always put any patient before surgery; and also a time-release capsule to be taken just before I go to sleep, which is guaranteed to wait until I'm ready for surgery, i.e. CAN'T FEEL PAIN, to dissolve in my stomach and release enough cyanide to kill me in 3 - 11 seconds.*
      *I can't find a firm indication of the time it takes to die from cianide on the internet. Maybe nobody knows. Maybe this is just another indication of how free speech is in America.

      Another pill to erase fear, which already exists and will soon be on the market, should be taken a few hours ahead or, maybe, 1 a day for weeks before my self-chosen zero hour.
      The point is to be in full and private charge, with no self important doctor or anyone else invading my privacy, intrusively fussing over me, stealing my dignity, or upstaging my last act. I want to be able to secretly pick my own time and place, preferably, as the ads say, in the privacy of my own room, and, to maximize choice, to have the set of pills, with a bottle of wine, always handy beside my bed.

-Glen Roberts


Why is a life, which can't be saved anyway, worth saving?

    First, no doctor or fireman or collie or "Suicide Hot Line" Samaritan has ever saved anyone from death. Even if a "mad" scientist someday learns the trick of indefinitely prolonging young, healthy life, we can still only truly say that he has extended life - saved SOME life. In the course of time, an accident will certainly eventually end that life. And if that accident is a long time coming, the sense of A particular life going on and on will soon enough be lost to the memory, anyway. ERB was perfectly right to stipulate that the apparently immortal John Carter couldn't remember far enough back to know himself whether or not he WAS immortal.
        But that is fantasy. No real-world doctor ever puts life in the bank and, even when life is artificially extended for another and another brief gasp, no "mad" scientist has yet invented a trick to indefinitely extend youth along with life.
        Far from it. The extension of life, which is the best (or worst) we can hope for, is, normally, only the extension of old age. Of course, a 20-year-old whose life is artificially prolonged without loss of any important pieces or perspectives is still 20 at that point in time and continues on no more rapidly than before toward old age and death. But most lives prolonged are already old. Normally, the poor, old cancerous, broken, sagging, depleted, hopefully drugged wretch whose life is "saved" is only being forced for the glory (or profit) of the doctor and the doctor's brutal imaginary god to endure more misery. In most cases, the life extension is of a lower quality than the life before it. And, even if it isn't, One chance for salvation from pain and fear has been stolen from the wretch and he has had to endure an additionally painful and fearful and expensive medical ordeal just to go through the approach and fear and pain of death again.
        "Oh! - but...," the self-perceived wizards piously entone, " isn't just the suicide's life or the accident victim's life or the ancient derelict's life or the flawed fetus's life that matters - it is also the blessed happiness and relief and solace the lifesaving hero grants to the 'loved ones' of his victim." That's what the self-perceived wizards or self-appointed spokespeople of the unforunately religious state say.
        But in fact, to be saddled with one's own misery is all any human should have to bear. To prolong the ordeal of the caretaker who must endure another's misery, too - to force a parent back again into the heartbreak of shepherding his perhaps now crippled child toward more fear and pain and old age and death anyway - AND to saddle the primary victim not only with more miserable life but also the misery of being an added burden to his already burdened "loved ones" - is only another typically hilarious human atrocity.
        The artificial extension of life under the guise of saving it may be the worst of the insults borne by suffering humans. The best thing would be to commission some sane scientist, if such exists, to develop a gentle, painless suicide pill-set (see above) - and then to impeach all the stupid politicians and judges in the way until all that are left are the few sane enough to immediately legalize the production and free distribution of that pill-set, without any useless doctor's interference, to everyone who wants it. That would be the civilized thing to do.
        We don't need to exist. Since we exist, we have the existential right to hang on to the experience if we individually want to. But let's impeach the imaginary gods and all their priests who tell us lies about what we want - and Mother Nature, too. Let's be sensible about it. Those who want to live - fine, let them live - healthy, young, old, blind, legless, whatever. And if they want to overpay some doctor to keep them conscious of their misery for a little longer - fine, too. Those who need time to gather their courage - fine, leave them alone, to cry or lament or giggle insanely, whatever.
        But let us not butt officiously into people's private lives and deaths and legally or religiously force them to be temporarily saved and then pat ourselves on the back for it. Only religious bestiality could savor such an act of torture, i.e. the enforced preservation of breath and consciousness in the sacrificial victim so the stupid godlies can imagine they're being good and so their ugly imaginary god can continue to bask in the tribute of pain paid to its bloody imaginary conceit.

-Glen Roberts


The "transitional care center," where anger doesn't work.

    Visiting a relative again and again in the hospital after he'd lost his fifth or sixth body function on his way to death and then again in what they call the transitional care center, maybe the worst place I've ever been, going back over and over, to wait and wait and wait to take him home to his actually preferred alternative - his own lonely living room, flavored commercial gruel, pills, and TV - as obvious a nightmare as that place was, who was the enemy? God? Hardly.
    After our third effort to leave, sitting again outside the curtained ward while they cheerfully washed the shit off him again after another parting accident and re-dressed him again, so we could try to leave the damned place again, willing myself into a trance in the busy hall of that awful zoo of happily chirping bustling attendants and still or staggering, silent or murmuring, old and twisted, tired and sadly lost victims of   life , transitioning through just one of the final hospital stops of the world toward their close and relentless deaths was something else.
    I promise you I talked to myself while I was there, but there's nobody there to argue aloud with. There's no use in arguing. There's little use in even caring or affecting sympathy. The energetic professional cheerfulness or extreme caressing pity of the staff - faked or not, is vain and cruel either way. For the visitor or relative unavoidably encountering all the fellow denizens of that hell from which he yearns minute after slow minute to finally extract his charge - the only course is to bear it, false-cheerfully say hello/goodby, finally emerge into the open air, letting the big glass doors wheeze shut behind him, and walk away in rigid denial that his own turn will come.
    Even clearly seeing in that bright-lit hell-hall the contradictory, ironic, often openly resentful bitterness of the doomed humans toward their attendants, I couldn't fault anybody or anything. The salaried keepers of the doomed have to do something to earn a living, they probably do sympathize, and their grotesquely exaggerated manner is the best they can do; while what their charges hate them for - that THEY still have a few more years to live - is beyond help, too.
    I can't see how the fabled Eskimo way of putting old people out on the ice to freeze is any more or less cruel. There's no other way - nothing else to do - except provide humane and easily available suicide options. And there are stupid anti-suicide factions opposing that, of course. But as for relentless aging and slow dying themselves, there's no enemy to fight. I promise you I was angry inside the "transition" center and for hours after I left, but my anger was a blank cartridge backfired into my own head.

-Glen Roberts