Dementia and Rational Suicide

From 2004 until late 2008, network television fictional series “Boston Legal” played out what actual human being Sandra Day O’Connor is enduring. That’s the loss of a fine legal mind.

More comedy than drama, “Boston Legal” captured the eccentricities of a bunch of winner lawyers in a New England boutique firm.

Each is off in his or her own unique way. That’s why even lawyers kept tuning in, despite knowing that the plot twists and turns didn’t mirror accurate legal practice.

The most compelling character had been Denny Crane.

His ego was beyond big.

But with that was a undertow of tragedy. He called his memory lapses his “Mad Cow Disease.” Although the disease progressed, he frequently managed to win cases, usually through flamboyant gestures.

However, Crane was aware that he could be slipping totally into the abyss. That’s why he asked his best friend at the firm Alan Shore to shoot him if and when he crossed that line.

During the last episode of the series it was obvious that Crane had crossed the line. Devoted fans were spared what the aftermath would be.

That was 10 years ago.

Today, a smart guy like Crane who was also a decent human being wouldn’t have asked Shore to do his dirty work. Of course, what Shore would have done would have landed him in legal hot water, perhaps including prison.

Now what is entering the mainstream is the concept of “rational suicide.” The subject is especially brought up in what the aging encounter.

At the top of the list of those maladies is the beginning of dementia. While the victims still have the cognitive ability to put together a self-deliverance plan, they can do that. Here is an article on all that in The New York Times section on The New Old Age.

Should the aging want to end their lives but lack the temperament to do it, there is help in other nations. Switzerland is among them.

Last May, 104-year-old scientist David Goodall went there for that purpose. He decided that aging had stolen from him his ability to enjoy life.

In his homeland of Australia, assisted suicide is not yet legal. When it becomes legal in Victoria in June 2019, only those who have six months to live are eligible. Goodall breathed his last listening to Beethoven.

This blog does not suggest that former SCOTUS justice O’Connor should consider rational suicide. That option does not align with many people’s value systems. Hers may be among them.

What this blog post on the agony of progressing dementia does intend to do is this: Raise awareness that even mainstream thinking is looking at suicide as a solution for dementia. The New York Times article explicitly mentions it.

Last week, a blue-collar delivery man, in his early 60s, and I discussed just that. Several days before, his friend, after being diagnosed with a form of dementia, killed himself with a gun.

No, we didn’t form a suicide pact but both committed ourselves to self-deliverance if memories transitioned from expected senior moments to losing major chunks of whatever. Of course, we wouldn’t ask each other’s help. Friends don’t ask friends to kill them.

No, I am not optimistic that the state laws on assisted suicide in the U.S. for non-terminal people will be changed in time to preserve the dignity of members of my baby boomer generation.

On this one, we are on our own. Government won’t pitch in and help.

I informed the delivery man I was already saving my pennies for “Suicide Tourism” to Switzerland.

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