Update: some well-needed information and nuance has been added to this discussion by a reader. If you read this post, please also take the time to follow this link to a very thoughtful response.
Back when I was dealing with more pain than I am now, I thought about assisted suicide. I never got close enough to start going through the nitty-gritty details, but it’s something I would have seriously considered if I had run out of things to try pain-wise. My back pain, back then, was constant and excruciating. A life where that experience was all there was would very likely not have been worth it to me.
Considering that option doesn’t mean, obviously, that I didn’t try to get better. I did try that, and as a result, I have gotten (somewhat) better.
Even so, it makes me very angry when people talk about how they don’t think assisted suicide should be a thing. About how if things hadn’t gotten better, I should have had no choice but to live in constant, excruciating pain.
Here’s what I think: I think that if you’re against assisted suicide, you think other people should have to suffer immeasurably so that you can avoid being uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable to realize that there are people in situations where death is preferable to life. It’s not a happy thought, but it is a true one. I sympathize with wanting to believe that everyone really wants to live, or that everyone really would want to if they really thought about it. What a nice world that would be.
But that’s not the world we live in. The world we live in includes people who live with more pain than they can handle every single day of their lives. It includes terminally ill people who would rather go while they’re still coherent, aware, and not completely incapacitated by disease-induced disability and pain. If that reality makes you uncomfortable, I understand. If you think catering to your discomfort by legally requiring others to endure torture so that you can pretend it’s what everyone really, truly wants deep down inside, you can go fuck yourself.
Make no mistake, that is the decision. When you say you’re against assisted suicide, you’re saying, “That person should have to live in unimaginable pain for an indeterminate amount of time so that I don’t have to face reality”. Which is monstrous.
Sidenote: yes, legalizing assisted suicide brings with it the potential for abuse. It brings with it the potential for people to be pressured into suicide. That is a big issue, and a complicated issue, but “It’s complicated therefore we should just pretend it’s not complicated by not allowing it at all” is not a solution to it.