Tag archives: Suicide

I loved that boy. I hated that deed:” Della Reese

by Robert Morrison

August 13, 2014

She was on a late night talk show in 1977. Actress Della Reese was being interviewed by Johnny Carson on NBC’s Tonight Show. I thought I was seeing a re-run because the host and Miss Reese were talking about the hit TV series, Chico and the Man.

This was shortly after the suicide of Freddie Prinze, the talented comedian who starred in the series. But, no, they came around to the subject. And Johnny, predictably, went on and on about the comic genius and the great tragic loss of Freddie Prinze. Della Reese spoke authoritatively and with finality. “I loved that boy, I hated that deed.” She would go on to become a familiar fixture in millions of American homes as “Tess,” the motherly figure in the popular series, Touched by an Angel.

I identified strongly with what this sensible woman said at the time. A few years later, I was tasked at the U.S. Department of Education with working on suicide among youth. As a project officer during the Reagan administration, it was my responsibility to study this troubling issue in American society. As part of my duties, I had a briefing book given to us by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.

That large binder included suicide rates for many ethnic and demographic groups in American society. At that time, I was familiar with the rates for various sub-groups, from Ashkenazi Jews to Zuni Indians.

When I thumbed through the binder, I noted that the suicide rate for Black women was exceedingly low. Almost zero. Could this be a misprint? I called CDC to check on the figures.

We’ve noticed that too,” said the desk officer in Atlanta, “we call it the BFPF.”

What’s that?” I pressed.

The Black Female Protective Factor — they’re very religious.”

Suicide experts going back to Emile Durkheim in the Nineteenth Century have noted the correlation between religiosity and suicide. Those who regularly worship have far lower suicide rates than the unchurched.

Those who join clubs and activities, too, are far less liable to take their own lives. So Volunteer Fire Departments, Rotary, scouting, 4-H, Anglers’ Clubs, etc., can be lifesavers as well.

In the Nineteenth Century, French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville studied American society and institutions. In his classic Democracy in America, Tocqueville wrote about Americans’ “genius for association.” We love to join clubs, it seems.

We cannot read of tragic suicides — like that of Robin Williams this week — without wondering why. One reason may just be the active efforts to suppress religion in America. How can it hurt to get rid of public prayer and open acknowledgment of God? Increased suicide rates is one way it hurts.

Let’s pray that Americans gain a greater understanding of the value to all of society of religious freedom. It used to be said: “The family that prays together stays together. “That was true in the 1950s. It’s true now. It might also be said: Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.

Ted Kennedys Widow on Massachusetts’ Death with Dignity ballot initiative

by Cathy Ruse

October 31, 2012

Five years after the state of Oregon legalized doctor-assisted suicide, the Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health & Science University conducted research on how the law was being utilized. Their findings, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, were shocking. They found that nearly 90 percent of people who ask their doctors for help in killing themselves later change their minds, and that what motivated most seriously ill people who asked was fear of pain — a fear that might be misplaced.

In one example, a man just 47-years old with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, sought suicide because he was scared to die like his father, who had died from colon cancer in great pain without adequate medication. But when he learned that ALS does not cause a painful death, he gave up thoughts of suicide.

Last week Victoria Reggie Kennedy, widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, published an op-ed against Question 2, the so-called Death with Dignity initiative on the Massachusetts ballot.

In it she blasts the measure, saying it is not about bringing family together to make end of life decisions but is intended to exclude family members from the actual decision-making process to guard against patients being pressured to end their lives prematurely.

Most of us wish for a good and happy death, with as little pain as possible, surrounded by loved ones, perhaps with a doctor and/or clergyman at our bedside, she writes, [b]ut under Question 2, what you get instead is a prescription for up to 100 capsules, dispensed by a pharmacist, taken without medical supervision, followed by death, perhaps alone.

In reflecting on her own husbands death, she closes this way: I know we were blessed. I am fully aware that not everyone will have the same experience we did. But if Question 2 passes I cant help but feel were sending the message that theyre not even entitled to a chance. A chance to have more time with their loved ones. A chance to have more dinners and sing more songs. A chance for more kisses and more love. A chance to be surrounded by family or clergy or a doctor when the end does come. That seems cruel to me. And lonely. And sad.

Living Will as Suicide Note

by Cathy Ruse

October 5, 2009

Read this story of a poor young woman, just 26 years old, who was depressed about not being able to have a child. Shes now dead, thanks to her Living Will which forbade emergency medical treatment to save her life after she swallowed antifreeze.

Whether the doctors were actually forbidden from saving her life or not, I dont know mightnt her depression have impacted her competency to refuse live-saving treatment? — but they believed they were and the result is now irrevocable.

The story calls this the first case of a Living Will used to commit suicide. How can we know this? Perhaps its only the first obvious case.

The point here: these are powerful legal documents, and Congress is poised to create a government-run health care system which will pay doctors to encourage patients to execute them. Think of the perils. People who are sick or in pain are inherently vulnerable. They are also often depressed. It would not take much to persuade them to sign away their right to future care. Remember, the Hemlock Society drafted this section of the heatlh care bill. I wonder what they think of the death of poor Kerrie Woolterton.

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