I’m almost at a loss for words about this. It’s not the time or place to discuss the pros and cons of suicide, and the shock and sadness are still too sharp for me to think I could write a suitable memorial for either friend. But I wanted to mark their passing in some public way, if only to say, “Farewell, old friend!” For each was a very special kind of individual, and I ache with the loss.
I won’t give their names. Those who know me will probably know who I’m talking about, and the names would mean nothing to the merely curious anyhow.
To continue: my former colleague, in his 60s, killed himself this past week. Already ravaged by diabetes, he had recently suffered a heart attack and was in the hospital awaiting a triple bypass. Using the pretext of wanting to consult his regular doctor, at another hospital, he checked out of the hospital he was in, went home, waited until he was alone, and then shot himself.
With the married couple, I knew what had happened as soon as I heard that both were dead of gunshot wounds. Both were in their 80s, both were ailing with terminal illnesses, and neither was afraid to die. They were former members of the Hemlock Society, a right-to-die group that embraced assisted suicide as a way out. Practicing what they preached, the husband shot the wife and then turned the gun on himself. Both were people of strong convictions and were two of the most morally conscious people I have ever known.
These are not the only suicides that have touched my life. I can count two more among relatives and two more among former newspaper colleagues. But the recent ones seem connected to healthcare concerns, whereas the earlier ones did not, and it’s no secret that a serious illness can bankrupt the well-to-do as well as the average person. It’s no secret, either, that medical costs vary so widely (and wildly) that their lust for money is transparent.
It’s a hell of a note to think that we live in a society where those who are sworn to “first, do thy patient no harm” are the principal operatives in a healthcare system that drives patients to suicide.