Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


Several years ago, my father-in-law was in the end stages of multiple myeloma. He was a retired doctor, and he knew what was coming. So one night he called us all over to his house, said his last goodbyes, and then went into his bedroom and took his own life.

But Harry died before he had to. Assisted suicide was illegal in California at the time, and he was afraid he might soon lose the physical ability to take his life. And he almost died alone. Until a friend talked him out of it, he had decided not to tell any of us beforehand, out of fear that we might be held responsible for assisting him.

Now I’m the one with multiple myeloma. I’m still years away from having to make the decisions Harry did, but when my time finally does come, I have an option that he didn’t: legal, doctor-assisted suicide thanks to a right-to-die bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year:

When I’m within six months of death, I can ask my doctor for a prescription sedative that will kill me on my own terms—when I want and where I want. Will I ever use it? I don’t know. I suspect that taking your own life requires a certain amount of courage, and I don’t know if I have it. Probably none of us do until we’re faced with it head-on.

But either way, I won’t have to die before I want to out of fear that I’ll lose the capacity to control my own destiny if I wait too long. Nor will I have to die alone out of fear that anyone present runs the risk of being hauled in by an overzealous sheriff’s deputy. I’ll be able to tell my wife I love her one last time. I can take her hand and we can lie down together on our bed. And then, slowly and peacefully, I’ll draw my last breaths.

I don’t want to die. But if I have to, this is how I want it to happen. I don’t want a “suicide party,” but neither do I want to suffer needlessly for months. Nor do I want to cause other people any more pain than I have to. I want to go out quietly, with my loved ones at my side.

Please read the whole thing. Doctor-assisted suicide is not a simple issue. There are legitimate fears about how it will be used and what it might lead to—and it’s not for everyone. In fact, the evidence suggests that it will never be used by more than a few percent of terminal patients. But I’m convinced that, for those who do want it, it’s simply a better, more humane way to treat our fellow human beings.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate