This article is worth reading. Norman Cantor is a Harvard Professor. He was one of our speakers at the first national conference on VSED that was held at Seattle University in October 2016. The audience was grateful for the overview of perspectives in the medical, legal, family and ethical arenas regarding VSED.
Before my husband made his decision to VSED, I did legal research and learned that VSED is a legal option.
In this article one of the things Mr. Cantor touches on is the topic of suicide and whether VSED is suicide. When I write and talk about VSED, I always make a distinction between VSED and suicide. When people asked if my husband was committing suicide when he decided to VSED, rather than live into the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, we didn’t respond or get caught up in what others were saying. It wasn’t an issue for us. What mattered to us was that Alan be able to have a good death, a conscious death, on his terms, and not have to endure the indignities of late stage Alzheimer’s.
Regardless of societal definitions, there is an important distinction to make between suicide and my husband’s choice. Our words matter. Suicide is saying “No” to life. Suicide is violent and outside the natural order. It’s an emotional decision and perception and usually done with emotional imbalance. It hurts one’s self and others, and has to be done secretively. My husband’s choice to VSED was about self-love, peace and compassion. He consulted with his loved ones as part of his decision making process. He was grateful for the good life he had and he honored life up to his last breath.
Mr. Cantor, in his professorial role, will dissect all perspectives, and this is good. In the meantime, we’re fortunate that VSED, with proper medical and caregiving support, can be a dignified way to die in the face of horrible degenerative disease.