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Considering a Hastened Death

There is no one universal reason that makes life worth living, nor is there one reason for choosing to end it. Each person faced with severe, irremediable medical situations must consider what is lost to them and what remains. For Stephen Hawking, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, the physical limitations of ALS did not outweigh the richness of thought and scientific insights he relished. For another individual, the unrelenting pain of rheumatoid arthritis may be a price worth paying to see one's grandchild. Yet for others, the very things that give meaning to their life — be it hobbies like painting or hiking, or professional achievements such as medical research or running their own business — are no longer possible. For those individuals, the addition of days does not offset the loss of meaning. 


What is—or should be—universal, is the right of the individual to make that assessment based on their own medical condition, and the qualities of life that are important to them.


In making that assessment, many factors should be considered:

  • What is the likelihood of medical advances in treatment?

  • What work-around or alternatives exist for the activities that formerly gave richness to life?

  • Have avenues such as palliative care been fully explored?

  • And most importantly, while one's life may have lost meaning to oneself, what will be the impact on their family and friends?


None of these factors in themselves determine the answer. But each of them must be thoughtfully considered—not only because the decision to end one's life is irrevocable for the individual, but because the decision should be understood (even if not approved of) by all of those it will impact.

We have information and resources for a hastened death on our Dying Options page:

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