This is a story about email...
When I wake up in the morning, I'm greeted by an inbox full of emails from people asking what the best way to commit suicide is. This shouldn't come as a surprise, given the thousands of readers I have every day, reading stuff I wrote about suicide methods. However, I thought I made it pretty clear in what I wrote that, deliberately, I wasn't providing any step-by-step instructions, or otherwise endorsing, encouraging, enabling or recommending suicide at all.
I think, at the root of this, we are looking for figures in authority, to make the difficult decisions for us.
It's completely insane to me, that a person in reasonably good physical health, would consider physician-assisted suicide. Why bother? It's really not hard to kill yourself. I think that we -mostly- live in a safe world, with a nanny state attempting to 'protect' us from everything. We scurry to the doctor, asking the dumbest most common-sense questions, because we feel reassured that a person of high social status - a demi-god - is dispensing blatantly obvious advice from a 'magic' building, while wearing a 'magic' white coat, and with a 'magic' stethoscope draped around their neck. It's bullshit; it's a sham - your doctor is no more qualified to guide you out of this world than a stranger you met in the street: at some point, everyone is on their own.
I understand perfectly, that we are socially and psychologically conditioned to respond to authority figures. The Milgram experiments have chillingly shown that most of us will administer lethal electric shocks to a person, who is screaming in agony, if we are told to do so by a person wearing a white lab coat, with a clipboard, who officiously tells us that we should kill one of our fellow human beings. Of course, we retain plausible deniability in that we can always say "I was just following orders" just like the Nazis in the concentration camps, who killed millions of Jews.
In a way, perhaps it's a good thing that people reach out to me, hoping that I will give my rubber-stamp of approval for their suicide, which I obviously do not give: I'm not in the business of dishing out those kinds of instructions. If you want to kill yourself, I'm not going to stop you. If you come to me, telling me that you're suicidal, then I'm not going to talk you out of it. I promise. However, I'm also not going to be the person who tells you to do it, or otherwise encourages, endorses, enables or in any way says that suicides are OK. Suicides are inevitable. Suicides are necessary. However, I have made it absolutely crystal clear in everything I've ever written: I don't want any suicides. Zero suicides. No Suicides. I can't make it any clearer than that.
If we want to talk about euthanasia, that's a whole different conversation. For sure, I'm pro-euthanasia. For people who literally can't end their lives with dignity, because their medical condition(s) have robbed them of the physical ability to end their own lives, for sure I am in favour of physician-assisted suicide.
What the fuck do you want from me? Surely you're not so stupid as to know that there are an almost infinite number of ways to kill yourself? You don't need me to tell you what the 'best' way is; to make a recommendation. I already provided ample information on all the methods. OF COURSE I am not going to give you a step-by-step guide: it's your death, so it's your responsibility.
Although it breaks my heart that so many people contact me in crisis, on the verge of committing suicide, it's a good thing that they are looking for my recommendation, approval and very basic instructions on how to end their lives. It's a good thing, because it means that the trivial obstacles are enough to keep them in the land of the living.
Of course, I do not wish to prolong another human being's suffering for a single second longer than absolutely necessary. Absolutely, if I possessed the means to wave my magic wand and take away anybody's suffering, I absolutely would do that. Me telling people - step-by-step - the exact way that they should kill themselves, in a way that shifts personal responsibility onto myself, is not responsible, right, useful, ethical, or otherwise conscionable. If you want to kill yourself, you'll find a way. If you NEED to kill yourself, you'll find a way. There's a whole internet of information out there, for those who are properly motivated.
I hope nobody sees what I've written as a challenge. I hope nobody sees what I've written as calling anybody's bluff. I believe, absolutely, that everyone who contacts me professing a desperate suicidal crisis and the imminent end of their life, is telling the truth; they are to be wholeheartedly believed. Their situations are desperately sad, and my heart bleeds. However, I am not operating a euthanasia clinic. I am not qualified to judge people's lives as hopeless, and dispense the means to end lives. Only YOU are qualified to judge whether your life is bearable - liveable - or not, and to then take the necessary steps as appropriate. If you wail that you do not know what those steps are, then I'm afraid that your fate is sealed: your desire to remain alive is stronger than your desire to pursue one of the infinite avenues open to you, to end your life.
I'm absolutely not asking you to stop writing. Please continue to write. However, I'm setting your expectations quite clearly: I will not, ever, tell you the "best" method of suicide, nor will I do anything to enable your suicide, nor endorse it, nor approve it, nor in any way get involved in your life-and-death decision, other than to say that I empathise very strongly with your plight - your crisis - and I'm very sad that things reached such a desperate situation. I will listen. I will understand, as much as possible. However, I won't try to talk you out of it. Think about all of this, if you get in contact: I'm totally not going to say you shouldn't do it, but I'm totally not going to say that you should either, or tell you how you should do it. That's your business, not mine.