Euthanasia: the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering. The word means “good death” and it’s considered good to many because assisted suicide is viewed as a solution – a legitimate means of ending suffering and escaping what feels inescapable. But is this a helpful or even moral portrayal of suicide? People don’t usually choose to end their lives while in a right state of mind. They only reach that point because they’ve believed the lie of euthanasia – that in some instances, suicide is the best option, or even the only option. Is this the sort of message we should be communicating to the most vulnerable, to those who suffer severe depression, anxiety or chronic illness? To even indirectly suggest that suicide is a viable option for some is nothing short of irresponsible and immoral, especially considering the undeniable link between suicide and both mental and physical health. Consider the following:
Each year approximately 2,400 Australians commit suicide. For every one of those deaths there are said to be 20-30 failed suicide attempts.1 One of the major causes for suicide is mental illness. Suicide.org suggests up to 90% of people who die by suicide suffer from a mental illness at the time of their deaths.2 Further, suicide is said to be the leading cause of death for people affected by mental illness. In fact, it is suggested, one in ten people affected by mental illness commit suicide.1 In a 2007 Survey of Mental Health and Well-being, 72% of people surveyed who had serious thoughts of suicide suffered from a mental disorder. Of these people, 77% suffered an anxiety disorder, 63% had a mood disorder and 34% had a substance use disorder.2 The most common mental illness is depression, and when a person suffers from depression, the risk of suicide is heightened.3
According to Beyond Blue, one in five suicides are linked to physical health problems. Some studies suggest the risk of suicide may be doubled by people who suffer from chronic pain. People who suffer from chronic illness are said to be at greater risk of developing depression and anxiety – both are said to be common in people with chronic physical illness. Heart disease, prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma and dementia are all said to increase the risk of developing depression. In fact, rates of depression are said to be “four times higher among people with chronic pain than people without and almost one in three Australian adults with severe pain have higher or very high levels of psychological distress.”4
Death is the final indignity, no matter what form it takes, but the message of assisted suicide suggests otherwise. Euthanasia cannot be preached without falsely portraying suicide as a solution for some. The notion that suicide is, at times, the best option will no doubt have a tragic impact on people who might have otherwise recovered — at least to a point where they no longer wish to take their lives.