Well-versed as we are with those who want to kill themselves with official sanction and legal blessings because of immeasurable physical pain and terminal illness, medically assisted voluntary ending of lives due to acute pain of the mind is still unheard of. Mental health issues, according to us, are a sad reality that could and should be cured with counselling and perhaps pills.
Euthanasia clinics have their hands full with requests from those who would rather die than live. With soft Mozart or rebellious Freddie Mercury playing in the background, a glass of merlot or a can of beer in hand, there are those who want to bid adieu to the world in their own way, on their own time. But first they have to prove they are eligible to die. That they tried long and hard to withstand the indignities of age and illness. That they lived enough.
Is death ageist? Is there a legal, or even moral, age to die? We are all guilty of assessing age of the deceased in the privacy of our heads as ‘old enough’ or ‘too young’ to go. Anyone dying in extreme youth, before they held a job or had kids, is universally considered tragic. Anyone dying of extreme age is called lucky. The reason being the long years they put in on earth; it is as if they earned their afterlife in pension.
So when Kelly, a 23-year-old student, cites mental agony as reason to seek euthanasia as reported by
Daily Mail recently, the ask itself is not new. What is of note is her age. She lives in Belgium, where euthanasia is not only allowed, but physical pain and mental pain are treated at par. Euthanasia laws are same for kids and adults here. Anyone can apply, age no bar.
Actor Julia Goldani Telles playing Noah Solloway’s moody daughter Whitney in TV serial
The Affair or the eponymous heroine of Lady Bird, essayed by Saoirse Ronan, have all the devil-may-care attitudes audiences easily identify with and those that they do or don’t resolve during their screen time. We run into teenagers like that all the time. ‘Anyone who's lived within the emotional cyclone known as adolescence will recognise the vertiginous highs and lows of Lady Bird,’ said The Washington Post review of the film.
Though agony is pretty much ageless, attitude does play a large role in teen identity. Youth is such a time of muddled and befuddled thinking; are teenagers and young adults the best judge when it comes to their own mortality? And the mind, unlike the body, may just recover or change its tune in time. Wouldn’t it be premature to exit life when you’ve just entered right?
It seems bullying to pull rank over the younger lot like this; the departure lounge is for anyone who wants to travel out. But lingering in that lounge is highly recommended. Who knows, destinations may change.
Euthanasia means a good death. But it also implies attempting to live as long as one can before that.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival. Read Shinie Antony's columns