In modern times, those living in the developed west have a life expectancy of 75 to 80 years. Now in industrialised countries, we will be more likely to experience diseases and disabilities that were rare in earlier times. While old age is not in itself predictive of serious physical illness, the gradual deterioration of one’s body with age leads to an almost inevitable decline in a person’s quality of life.
This is why we see the issue of control in dying as being an increasingly common concern for many elderly people. Exit’s workshop program is often booked out months ahead as elderly folk seek answers to their practical questions about their end of life options. Although few who attend these workshops have any intention of dying in the near future, most see a need to organise and plan for this inevitable event.
Just as many of us plan for other aspects associated with dying (eg. we write a will, appoint executors, prepay for funerals etc.), so it is common sense to ensure that we have a plan about how we might wish to die. Yet to be in a position to plan for one’s death, one must first know one’s options. And that means information.
The Question of Suicide
Anyone who makes plans for their own death can be said to be planning their own suicide, although these days the terminology has become ‘voluntary assisted dying’ (VAD), voluntary dying or self-deliverance. While for some people suicide is a tainted concept, for a growing number of older people it is an issue of great interest and discussion. In this context, taking your own life (after careful consideration) is a way out of a life that an individual might consider is not worth living.