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  • Writer's pictureEve Was Right

When is Life Sacred?

Updated: Apr 8

And how much of this is caused by our politicians refusing to give people the basic necessities for life? 

(Life is always sacred, actually. Without exception.) 

Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or and need emotional support, please reach out immediately to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 by call or text. These services are free and confidential.

Call or text 988 for free, confidential mental health support across the US.

This piece takes inspiration from Ramona Coelho’s Al Jazeera article about Canada’s assisted dying program and the recent political discussions on expanding the program’s eligibility to minors. Since I wrote the first draft, another article came out in the Guardian about a father in Canada who petitioned the court to stop his 27 year old daughter’s assisted death.

When I started this site, I never thought I’d be divulging such vulnerable facts about myself, but I suppose it’s the benefit of keeping this site anonymous. I get to reach into my chest, pull out my heart, and squish it all over these pages. 

I spent a large amount of my early adulthood dealing with a severe physical illness. I’ll spare you the specifics, but it was severe enough to require brain surgery, and the type of brain surgery I underwent was severe enough for the recovery to last an entire year. It came complete with personality changes, relearning how to speak and write, and sleeping sitting up. Despite the difficulty of the surgery and recovery, it didn’t hold a candle to the pre-diagnosis time and the symptoms caused by the thing growing in my brain.

The entire time period blurs together a bit; I haven’t quite lost memories, but they’ve faded at the edges, and the meager details I can recall ghost away when I grasp at them. However, I distinctly remember the day I told my friend I was contemplating suicide. 

A short period of time prior, I spent two days gripped in unimaginable pain. As it turns out, the growth in my brain pressed on the origin point for my whole autonomic nervous system, much of which lives in the gut. It caused blinding, psychosis-inducing pain. I asked for help from my caregiver, who responded that there was nothing they could do. They wouldn’t give me pain medicine for fear I might develop an addiction. So I found myself curled in the fetal position on the floor, knowing I wouldn’t be able to get medication to help, unable to scream with pain because I couldn't tolerate my stomach muscles contracting. 

The opioid and fentanyl epidemic ravaged large swaths of the United States, and the pharmaceutical companies deserve everything they’ll get from the lawsuits regarding their complicity. However, this drug war claims invisible victims as well. They’re the people for whom pain medication means the difference between survival and agony, and who are denied access to the only effective type of pain medicine we have. 

There’s a reason I’m telling you all of this. Allow me to indulge in a bit of a spoiler: I’m one of the very few, insanely lucky, people to be fine now. I’ve enjoyed a full recovery, apart from requiring medicine after I eat a heavy meal and taking topical anti-inflammatories every once in a while. 

During my period of vulnerability, I contacted my friend, who, upon understanding the subject matter, requested that I download an encrypted internet server to continue the discussion. A staunch libertarian, he took the news calmly and said he’d help if I really decided I wanted to. 

Sometime after we concluded the conversation, I managed to get medicine, and my pain became more of a constant stab versus the feeling of a giant ripping apart my organs. I never mentioned it to my friend again. 

As I read Coelho’s article, that moment came hurtling back from the depths of my repressed memory. I found myself wondering if I’d be dead if I had lived in Canada. 

Probably. I’d probably be dead if I had lived in Canada. 

In her article, Coelho addresses the fact that many people who pursue Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) seek it out for financial reasons. If they had been guaranteed food, medicine, medical care, and sources of community, without the fear of doing something for it to be taken away, would they have gone through with dying? 

Probably not.

In my darkest hour, I thought my suicidal ideation was rooted solely in physical pain. Now, with the benefit of a hindsight that includes full health, a complete lack of pain, and financial stability, I realize my suicidal ideation represents the culmination of many things, only one of them physical pain. For example, the emotional and verbal abuse of my caretaker, an inability to gain financial independence from said caretaker, a lack of appropriate medications for my condition, and the constant trauma women experience at the hands of the medical establishment. 

What If?

What if I had unrestricted access to the best medical care in the world, and those doctors had not lost their empathy as a result of being so overworked? These hypothetical doctors would benefit from patient load limits, and they wouldn’t have to spend most of their time fighting health insurance denials. They would remember why they pursued their work in the first place, and hopefully, they’d still enjoy it. Their workplaces would offer training on the differences in symptoms and presentations between women and men. 

What if I hadn’t been forced to subject myself to emotional abuse to have access to medical care and basic living requirements? What if my government provided financial support for caretakers, so they wouldn’t be forced to choose between caring for their loved one full-time, which often leads to financial struggles, and shouldering the inhuman burden of juggling work and caretaking? What if I knew I would have a safe place to sleep, healthy food to eat, a comfortable bed, and a guarantee those provisions would continue for the duration of my illness and its treatment? 

And what if I lived in a society that prioritized life? Pure, human life - no matter what form, no matter how productive? What if the hordes of scientists currently working on optimizing fuel availability for mining projects were instead paid the same amount to develop a non-addictive pain medication? You’re telling me we found a vaccine for COVID-19 in 6 months, but we can’t find a non-addictive alternative to opiates? Bullshit. 

You’re telling me we found a vaccine for COVID-19 in 6 months, but we can’t find a non-addictive alternative to opiates? Bullshit.

Given those hypotheticals, I wouldn’t have even considered suicide. I would have moved out, gained the necessary distance from my overworked, traumatized, and abusive caretaker, and found doctors who didn’t withhold medical treatment until I convinced them my illness was real. 

I admire Coelha immensely for confronting these subjects, especially because life has lost its sacredness in recent years. Liberal humanitarians espouse the humanitarian benefits of assisted suicide, celebrating it as some sort of extreme expression of individual choice.

A healthy global society would pull out all the stops to prevent this from happening in the first place. We should see an interest in euthanasia of any kind as a manifestation of profound social fragmentation. Everyone should want to live to a ripe old age, dying pain-free in the arms of their loved ones and at their natural time. 

We’re not in the current situation because premature death is a rational option, but because our politicians refuse to focus on the right things, such as developing no-risk solutions to physical pain. Our political structures don’t respect the sacredness of life enough to ameliorate suffering. When faced with such stark inhumanity our minds force us to reconcile the cognitive dissonance, and we get justifications like “it’s harm reduction.” 

A better path exists. Finland halved their suicide rate through application of political will. It requires political will and a complete revolution in political, scientific, and economic priorities, but it’s waiting under the surface of this world. 

We can achieve a world where life is truly sacred. We can live in a world where no one wants to die.


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