How the generation that refuses to grow old and feel pain invented assisted suicide

The news about actor Alain Delon’s decision for assisted suicide is a disturbing call for reflection. “I never liked getting old,” the actor said on one occasion. At 86 years old, the “right to leave calmly” would make provoked death “the most logical and natural thing” to do, in the Frenchman’s opinion, which is far from being considered a terminal patient. The youngest son’s recent statements, denying that his father intends to end his own life and asking that he be allowed to “live in peace”, seem to reinforce the thesis that a “nostalgia for the spotlight” has motivated the farewell atmosphere. . In any case, Delon reminded us of the urgency of thinking about what Albert Camus defined as the only “truly serious philosophical problem”: “judging whether or not life is worth living”.

The rejection With aging, the obsession with eternal youth and permanent happiness seem to be creating a generation of adults without emotional maturity, who confuse whims with rights and have an aversion to duties. This is evidenced by the Argentine psychologist Sergio Sinay, in his book “The society that does not want to grow”. “A society committed to remaining a teenager lives in immediacy, in the fleetingness, in the escape from responsibilities”, he says.

The alleged constant “duty of happiness” is the theme of the essay “The Perpetual Euphoria”, by French Pascal Bruckner. “Happiness is no longer a chance that happens to us, a favorable moment in relation to the monotony of days”, as well as unhappiness, since both are natural in human life, in the author’s view. happiness a program of life and ends up feeling unhappy precisely because of that.

“If the path of reflection and subjective intention does not account for the desire to reduce the burden of a self-consciousness that weighs and makes suffer, why not take the shortcut of objective intervention through technological manipulation?”, provokes Eduardo Gianetti da Fonseca, in the suggestive work “Felicidade”. The reflection on antidepressants and drugs is easily applicable to the extreme of assisted suicide.

The promise of quality of life embedded even in the transhumanist discourse (a kind of overcoming biological limitations by technology) hides in itself an attack on the sacredness of life, points out gynecologist and obstetrician Elizabeth Kipman, audible knowledge of Personalist Bioethics. “The population is absorbing this discourse of individual empowerment, without knowing the political issues that are behind it. It absorbs the idea of ​​an ‘earthly paradise’, without realizing that it will be necessary to eliminate those who are worthless, such as the sick and the elderly. To achieve this, it is first necessary to build a social consensus, and that is what is happening”, he defends.

The idea of ​​“control” of the population through pleasure already appeared in the “Brave New World” , by Aldous Huxley, who paints a “paradise” without family ties, responsibilities and pain, even with the help of a drug – soma – to guarantee well-being free from side effects. Published in 1932, the work seems like a prophecy of the ideal of many today: “The world is now stable. People are happy, they have what they want and they never want what they cannot have. They feel good, they are safe; they never get sick; they are not afraid of death; they live in the blissful ignorance of passion and old age; they are not burdened with fathers and mothers; they have no wives, no children, no mistresses for whom they can suffer violent emotions; they are conditioned in such a way that they practically cannot help but behave as they should. And if, by chance, something goes wrong, there’s the soma.”

With the infinite possibilities brought by technology, came proposals about new ways of dying. And although, in the Hippocratic Oath, every doctor at the end of his training utters that “Even when urged, I will neither give a deadly drug nor advise it”, practices such as assisted suicide and euthanasia offer help – usually medical – in dying. The difference is that in the first, the patient administers the lethal drug and in the second, it is the medical team. From a moral point of view, however, they are not different from common suicide, in the opinion of the oncologist and master in philosophy Franco Scariot, author of the book “Ethical issues in terminal patients according to personalism” (2021).

“This is in fashion because the priority of the value has been inverted. Before it was clear that the value of life was superior to that of freedom, now it is reversed. But it has no logical argument, because to be free, you have to be alive. Not to mention that he shows little knowledge of the concept of freedom, since there is no full freedom, life’s contingencies are always suffered”, he recalls.

The duty of relationships

Thinking life as a right or as a duty is in the “x” of the issue of suicide, according to Professor José Dias, a member of the Graduate Program in Philosophy, Masters and Doctorate at Unioeste Campus de Toledo. “For the first conception, there are no major ethical problems involved in suicide, as we are not obliged to enjoy a right when it has become an unbearable burden. However, for the second conception, suicide presents serious ethical problems, because if life is considered a ‘duty’ for the living, we need to put into the equation the rights of the other parties involved: family, friends, society”, he ponders.

Scariot adds that, in addition to contradicting a natural tendency to fight for survival, inherent to every being, suicide is immoral as it promotes a break in relationships. “Studies show that man is a social being, a being of relationships, he is not alone. Suicide not only takes the person’s life, but breaks relationships with family, friends, it is a selfish act in which the person thinks of himself, not of who he is leaving”, he adds.

“The suicide is a definitive answer to a temporary problem”, says nurse Lidiane Melo, a professor at the postgraduate course in Suicidology at the Municipal University of São Caetano do Sul, pointing out that at least ten people are impacted in each case. And it is thinking about these “broken” relationships that the specialists work in postvention, that is, in the assistance to those who stay. “The last days of survivors bereaved by a suicide are carrying the pain of someone who saw in suicide the way out of suffering. It gives the impression that the problem is solved, but it generates infinite grief, the bereaved is never the same again”, he laments.

Suicide causes an irreparable break in relationships, and it is precisely it is in human relationships that the meaning of life can be found, says Elizabeth Kipman. “I remember a patient with breast cancer, who lived alone, without a partner, one child had been killed by drug trafficking and the other, whom she loved very much, was in prison for the same reason. She didn’t want to have the surgery, she was aggressive, she swore a lot,” she says. Everything changed when a psychologist got her son a permit from the prison to go to the hospital. “It was very exciting. She discovered that she could offer what was going through him, and he promised that he would regenerate for her”, he recalls.

More than physical pain, reinforces the doctor, what leads to suicide is the “pain of hopelessness, of nothingness, of emptiness”. “The human person exists to seek a meaning beyond himself. Giving up on life because you can’t stand the pain due to the inner emptiness or the lack of horizon is not realizing a meaning. It is always possible and necessary to come out of oneself to achieve some value”, opines the doctor, evoking the neuropsychiatrist Viktor Frankl, father of Logotherapy.

A survivor of four concentration camps, the Austrian said that every person can discover the meaning of life in the realization of creative, existential and attitudinal values. “The first ones happen when you act, build, love; the second are linked to what he receives, to love, to the beautiful; but the most properly human value is that of attitude. When someone is affected by unavoidable suffering, such as illness or the death of a person, it is properly human to take an attitude in the face of suffering”, summarizes Kipman.

Scariot adds that practically all patients who ask for help to die give up when suffering is suppressed. “As a society, we should fight to address suffering, not to fulfill the request for suicide with a false humanitarian justification,” she argues. Thus, if from a subjective point of view it is the anguish caused by physical or emotional pain that almost always leads a person to make this decision, “a large part of the voluntariness of the act” is lost since there is “an internal coercion”, adds the doctor.

Dignity of the person

The dignity of the person, expressed in the right to a “dignified and painless death”, is among the main arguments of the pro- assisted suicide. “Dignitas”, by the way, is the name of a Swiss non-profit society that offers alternatives to die.

Legal “principle of principles”, which underlies all rights and ethics, human dignity is not it is related to any external condition or usefulness of the person, recalls Professor José Dias. In this sense, neither old age nor infirmity can hijack someone’s worth. “His dignity (human value) goes beyond his physical, chronological or mental situation, therefore, whether child, young or old, healthy or sick, every human individual ‘is’ an absolute value: it is priceless, because it cannot be replaced, it is single. Under no historical circumstances could the individual lose their dignity, as this would mean ceasing to be human, which is impossible”, he reinforces.

The fundamental choice for life in limiting situations is far from religious motivations. A record holder in longevity among those diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), physicist Stephen Hawking, who died in 2018, at 76 years old, is a good example of this. “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21 years old. Everything since then has been a bonus”, he said on one occasion.

With his muscles paralyzed by the disease, Hawking – who declared himself an atheist on several occasions – used a wheelchair and used a wheelchair. voice synthesizer to communicate. “I’ve been living with the prospect of dying early for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I want to do a lot before that”, declared the physicist, considered one of the most brilliant minds in history.

Elizabeth Kipman recalls that Hawking himself saw in transhumanism “a great disaster”, a risk of dehumanize man. In this sense, she reinforces the importance of accepting death as a “natural stage” in the cycle of life. “It’s about getting ready, learning to face the things that happen to us, the disappointments, which are small deaths that life teaches us to live. However, it is completely different to act to dominate one’s own life and death. Suicide is not the realization of a value, even from apparently good justifications. It is a slope of dominance, manipulation and subjection, even when it is advocated as conquered freedom”, he defends.

Death tourism

In March, the Alain Delon’s eldest son told the press that the actor had asked for help to undergo assisted suicide in the near future. Delon even posted a farewell text on his Instagram account. “I would like to thank everyone who has followed me over the years and given me great support. I hope that future actors can find in me an example not only in the field of work, but in everyday life between victories and defeats.” The post was later deleted.

With one of the least restrictive laws in the world in this area, Switzerland – where Delon lives and would plan to undergo assisted suicide, which was denied last Friday (8). ) by the actor’s youngest – it is the destination of a strange type of tourism, in which people pay large sums to take their own lives. Without requiring the candidate to have a terminal illness, the legislation opens precedents for situations that are difficult to explain, such as that of two North American sisters, 54 and 49 years old, who disappeared in February after traveling to the country.

They would have sent messages to family and friends, who they believe they were written by other people the day before he died by assisted suicide. “The two American ladies died in 11 February,” the Swiss government said in a statement reproduced by the Daily Mail. Both health professionals, the sisters were healthy and had not previously expressed a desire for the procedure.

One of the best known names in this Swiss “death tourism” is Philip Nitschke. Known as “Dr. Death,” he created a suicide machine called Sarco (of sarcophagus), which gained approval for use late last year. The invention is a kind of capsule made in 3D printing, where the person dies a few minutes after the release of a gas. After that, the wrapper itself becomes a coffin.

Among the countries with laws that allow some type of assisted death are Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Austria, Canada, some states in the United States and Colombia.

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