How do we prepare for an assisted suicide?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 30, 2016
Livingdeadgirl asked...

How helpful is the Hemlock Society when preparing for suicide? Is there a list of doctors that will assist? Should the family be advised of the decision by the patient?


Expert Answers

Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N. and Attorney is the author of author of The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents. She has over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. As a nurse, she has extensive experience with geriatrics, chronic illness, pain management, dementias, disability, family dynamics, and death and dying. As a trial attorney, she advocated for for the rights of injured individuals and neglected elders. She is also co-founder of AgingParents.com.

Preparing for assisted suicide or suicide in general is an extremely individual and private decision. I do not have personal experience in working with the Hemlock Society, though it it my understanding that their purpose is to support the decisions of those who choose suicide. I have worked with 2 persons in my profesional careers who made this choice and did so without anyone physically assisting them. In most states, it is illegal to assist someone with suicide, and criminal charges can follow if someone assists another to commit suicide. Therefore, it is essential to find out the law in your state. Even after Dr. Kevorkian spent years in prison for his highly publicized assistance with suicide in a patient who clearly chose this, the law in most states has not changed. Prosecutors do prosecute anyone who helps with suicide, even if they are acting with compassion, and entirely at the suicidal person's request. Murder charges can and will be filed in many cases.

I do think that the subject of contemplating taking one's own life is something that should be discussed with family. Many people feel betrayed, guilty, shocked, angry and other intense emotions after a family member or friend commits suicide, and they do not always heal from the trauma it creates. Because it affects everyone the suicidal person knows, I think the feelings of all should be considered. It seems unfair to judge anyone about this decision, and I make no judgement. However, as it has such a dramatic effect, which can last for family members' lifetimes, it is best to be open with the subject and the discussion. I recommend the participation of a trusted other, such as clergy, doctor, advisor or close friend, if this discussion takes place.

If there is any possible consideration of other alternatives, or you have no one to talk to about it, Suicide Prevention has compassionate volunteers available 24/7 to listen and offer support. It's a free service, available to anyone.


Community Answers

Rcheck answered...
  1. If the family member wants to let other members know, it's their right to tell them or not.

  2. I watched two friend's mothers want to die. They outlived their lives and suffered for years. Due to antiquated laws, they suffered through it. In one case, the family didn't want to let go. That's why I told my own mother she could let go. I didn't help her, I saw hospice helping with that. I watched her... She asked for help but other than her legal drugs, my hands were tied.

  3. Look at the Hemlock Society online. My book is old and outdated.
  4. If you can afford it, look at residency requirements where suicide is legal (in a couple of states).
  5. If a person is aged and wants to die, keep in mind that a doctor will probably want to prescribe an anti-depressant but there's nothing wrong with someone deciding life should be over. (Research on drugs is often skewed. Don't trust everything you read. Trust me :) .)
  6. Keep looking on the internet for suicide methods but for the time-being, you can't help the person die but you may be able to provide the gear. Websites on this topic come and go. Tools come and go. If you keep looking, you may find tools in an instant but research and act quickly.

You're asking a taboo question. Pharmaceuticals stay in business when people survive (through nightmares). Keep that in mind, as well.

Good luck and may you find peace.