Sunday, May 10, 2009


At what point, far in the future, I hope, should I say, if I have the choice: “It’s time to die”?

Let’s say that by then there’ll be no more debate about my right to make and carry out such a decision. That there will be neither legal nor metaphysical constraints, and free choice in the matter will be mine, along with whatever humane means and assistance are necessary to accomplish my will in the manner I determine.

I’ll then declare something like this: “I, being of sound mind, though not of body, do solemnly and with all due consideration, declare that I freely choose to depart from this world of the living, that I have no further prospect of usefulness or enjoyment by continuing my mortal existence, and that I now wish to conclude it.”

Many before have chosen suicide, most of them for bad reasons and are therefore rightly lamented or condemned for their rashness or unwisdom. All of those bad decisions I would say proceeded from mental and emotional aberrations that might have been cured or corrected by salutary interventions that brought the perpetrators to clearer judgment and their “right minds.”

Joy is probably the key to our will to live. When there is finally no way to ignite and preserve the flame of delight in a life consumed by pain and purposelessness, then suicide presents itself as a solution. However, despair and depression must be distinguished from absolute and irremediable joylessness, to the extent that despair and desperation are treatable and subject to alleviation.

The feelings of others are another relevant factor you need to consider, since their joy may well depend on your survival. When my ailing 83-year-old mother determined to depart, she persisted in persuading her three children of her firm determination that she no longer cared to hang on to a life increasingly debilitated and painful, despite the good services of doctors and caregivers. She had had enough, the joy of living on was gone, she did not wish “to be a burden,” and she was ready to go. She was courageous and determined in her decision.

And at last I came to see that she was right.