Article 43

 

Monday, December 04, 2017

Rationalizing Suicide

image depressed man

The prospects for the re-employment of older workers deteriorate sharply the longer they are unemployed . . . This is all the more reason to support the unemployed and depressed who threaten suicide.
- Thinking About Suicide

Suicide as Rational Choice?
Can someone who isn’t ill kill themselves for a good reason?

By Stanton Peele Ph.D.
Psychology Today
January 20, 2011

I once saw the author of “night, Mother,” Marsha Norman, “debate” (on a television talk show) Bernadine Healy, the former director of the NIH and a forceful proponent of the idea of mental illness as a disease.

In a fey, offhand way (she didn’t confront Healy directly) Norman made the case that some people’s lives result in a rational decision to kill themselves (as the play proposes). This is perhaps most evident in cases of terminal illnesses. But in the play, it is because a woman’s life had never gone anywhere - she was stuck in a house with her mother, having never launched an independent life.

This same issue was raised by at least one woman interviewed in the film, “The Bridge,” which tracked the horrifying suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge over a year. This woman accepted that her grandson - like his mother - was geared to kill himself his whole life. The NY Times reviewer, Stephen Holden (obviously not a mental health professional), said of the film: “Because their testimony is remarkably free of religious cant and of cozy New Age bromides, this is one of the most moving and brutally honest films about suicide ever made.”

But this post isn’t about “‘night, Mother” or “The Bridge.” It’s about a film titled, “The Woodmans,” about a family of artists whose daughter - Francesca - killed herself at age 22 in 1981 by throwing herself out a window.

Francesca Woodman was a brilliant, provocative (she often photographed herself nude) ferociously ambitious artist who revolutionized photography - only she wasn’t around to get credit when the credit came due. Her agent described her working as a third photographer’s assistant when she had already created the most audacious photographs of not only that decade, but the next (let’s leave aside Robert Mapplethorpe, another kind of suicide in a way, whose life and work is explored in Patti Smith’s memoir, “Just Kids").

Woodman anticipated virtually every movement in commercial and art photography - the sexualized self-dramatization adopted by Cindy Sherman (whose life and work is shown in a film by her ex-lover, “Guest of Cindy Sherman"), the currently popular black-and-white gritty semi-sexual advertising for jeans and other consumer items, the integration of setting and subject, the visual representation of words, sounds, and ideas.  But this was all undoable at the time.

And now she IS recognized. Perhaps the most chilling shot in the film is of her agent laughingly saying that, when he needs to pay college tuition for one his kids, he pulls out a photo - of which he says he has stacks - to sell for Woodman’s current “going” price - $20,000 (she is now widely exhibited).

Okay, why did Francesca Woodman kill herself? Her parents are decent, loving, supportive people. She had a close relationship with her father (he admires her so much that, after her death, he turned to photography from painting to make pale imitations of her photos).

Francesca was beautiful, lively, appealing to others. She was also incredibly demanding - as a friend said - of her friends, her lovers, herself. And she recognized - and expected and needed public recognition of - herself as a great artist. Which only came after she committed suicide due in no small part to its absence - the inherent paradox of her life and death.

Life may have made her choice - given her intense ambitions - seem reasonable to her at the time.  But subsequent history, we now know, would have provided her with all that she sought.  Only - in the impatience of youth - enduring that gap was intolerable to her.  And, of course, the success of her vision was far from preordained.  So how could a therapist (she was seeing one regularly, and receiving antidepressants) have anticipated such a development, or addressed her seemingly shattered dreams?

Psychology and psychiatry have not developed better answers to these questions than they had three decades ago, when Francesca Woodman gave her life away.

SOURCE

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High-Tech Suicide Machine Makes Death a Painless, Peaceful, Optimal Way to Go
The Sarco is a state-of-the-art death machine.

By Kali Holloway
AlterNet
December 1, 2017

In a world filled with chaos, a new suicide machine allows people to exit life in an orderly, peaceful manner. The Sarco is a technological marvel, resembling some kind of futuristic sleeping chamber, that aids in voluntary assisted dying. Australian doctor Philip Nitschke, whom Newsweek identifies as the “Elon Musk of assisted suicide, unveiled the new apparatus earlier this week, just days after lawmakers in the state of Victoria voted to legalize euthanasia. The device simplifies what Nitschke dubs ԓrational suicides, ensuring that the process is painless and easy - an optimal way to go.

The Sarco was developed by Nitschkes organization, Exit International, which bills itself as an ғaid-in-dying organisation. The machine includes a base topped by a translucent chamber perfectly proportioned to comfortably fit a human which. After settling in the pod, the user will push a button and the chamber will start to ԓfill up with liquid nitrogen to bring the oxygen level down to about 5 percent. Around the minute mark, the user will become unconscious, experiencing almost no pain, according to the Newsweek report. (The doctor describes the changes as akin to ԓan airplane cabin depressurizing.) After death comes, which is fairly swift, the chamber can be used as a coffin. The base, just fyi, is reusable.

In a press release, Exit International notes the Sarco “was designed so that it can be 3D printed and assembled in any location” and that blueprints “will be free, made open-source, and placed on the Internet.” While accessibility is a major selling point, there is one hurdle would-be users will need to clear: a “mental questionnaire” that’s available online. Once a client has established mental health, they’re given a 4-digit code that opens the capsule door, the first in a series of steps to “a peaceful death”...in just a few minutes.

According to Newsweek, a few suicide clinics in Switzerland have expressed interest in licensing the Sarco for use. There are also likely to be takers in other spots around the world. In addition to the new Victoria law, assisted suicide is now legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where it’s become an increasingly popular choice. In the U.S., only teminally ill patients can opt for assisted suicide, and in many states, at least two doctors must verify the legitimacy of the request. State-specific legislative nuance governs “death with dignity” laws in California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, D.C. and Washington. All that said, support for the right to choose when and how one dies is on the rise. In 2016, 69 percent of Americans said doctors should be allowed to end a patient’s life by painless means.ғ That number increased to 73 percent this year.

Philip Nitschke, who advocates for euthanasia to be a legal option for anyone over 70, continues to push for assisted suicide as a civil right. He says that the grey wave washing over Baby Boomers has helped create a sea change in thinking.

“These are people who are used to getting their own way, running their own lives,” Nitschke told the Big Smoke earlier this year. A lot of the women have gone through political battles around abortion rights, feminism, the Pill. They don’t want to be told how to live or how to die. The idea that you can pat these people on the head and say there, there, “let the doctors decide” is frankly ridiculous...Peoples’ lives are people’s lives. Death is a part of that, and so it should be up to them to make the decisions.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/04/17 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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The U.S. Political System Has Been Hijacked

image: dying America

Harvard Business School: The U.S. Political System Has Been Hijacked

By Yossarian Johnson
The Intellctualist
November 2017

A new CASE STUDY [local copy] by Harvard Business School asserts that U.S. politicians have rigged the system to such a degree that the U.S. is on its way to becoming a failed democracy. The authors of the case-study use the word ‘hijacked’ to describe what the political parties have done to governance in the United States.

Some tidbits:

America’s political system was long the envy of the world. It advanced the public interest and gave rise to a grand history of policy innovations that fostered both economic and social progress. Today, however, our political system has become the major barrier to solving nearly every important challenge our nation needs to address. This was the unexpected conclusion of the multiyear Project on U.S. Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, established in 2011 to understand the causes of America’s weak economic performance and rising inequality that predated the Great Recession.

The authors point to a number of American pathologies that do not plague other advanced nations.

A similar failure to progress has also afflicted the nations social agenda. In areas such as public education, health and wellness, personal safety, water and sanitation, environmental quality, and tolerance and inclusion, among others, U.S. progress has stalled or gone in reverse. In these areas, where America was often a pioneer and leader, the U.S. has fallen well down the list compared to other advanced countries. Tolerance, inclusion, and personal freedom are registering troubling declines, a sign of growing divisions in our society.

A poorly educated

In public education, of particular significance for citizen opportunity, in math the U.S. was ranked 31st out of 35 OECD countries (the other advanced economies using the respected PISA process) in 2015, down from 25 in 2009, 20th in reading (down from 14) and 19th in science (down from 17).5 Instead of progress, then, our government is mired in gridlock and inaction. Increasingly over the decades, Congress has been unable to get things done, especially on important issues.

The authors of the piece note how the Founders of the United States would find the rules that govern the country unrecognizable today.

The result: America’s political system today would be unrecognizable to our founders. In fact, certain of our founders warned against political parties. John Adams, our second President, said, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.  Our founders and most Americans today - would be shocked by the extent to which our democracy has been hijacked by the private and largely unaccountable organizations that constitute todays political industrial complex.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/04/17 •
Section Dying America
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