The XX Factor

Assisted Suicide is Not About Romance

In reading the conversation about the double assisted suicide of Sir Edward and Lady Joan Downes , I’m baffled by the idea that it was either selfish or super-romantic. Old people dying quietly is nicer than old people being crushed by the pain of terminal cancer or old people having their consciousness obliterated by morphine. But romantic ?

This is the most basic of quality of life issue. These are old people, one terminally ill, the other wracked with disabilities that diminished his quality of life. Why should anyone think he or she has the right to say, Well, you can’t see and you can’t hear and you can hardly get yourself from room to room. You’re bent double with grief and loneliness but we’d like you to stick around so that when we feel like it, we can visit you at the holidays or pop by with the grandkids for a few hours once a month. Too bad, I’d say. God bless their son, who loved them enough to honor their wishes, bear his loss, and respect that his presence on Earth was not enough to make them wish to stay, much as they loved him. As baby boomers try to prolong our own lives, will we insist that our parents prolong theirs, because we’re not ready to be orphans, as if being orphans was not pretty much the natural order after 40 or 50?

Photograph by Getty Images.