The Economics of Suicide
On Friday, a British couple -- he an 85-year-old composer who had gone blind and was going deaf, she a 74-year-old former dancer in the final stages of terminal cancer -- committed suicide in Switzerland. They had been together for 54 years and did not want to live without each other. They ended their lives in the presence of their children, with a barbiturate cocktail designed to spare them pain. The setting, and the cocktail, were provided by Dignitas, a Swiss company that specializes in such things.
It's not a common way to go, but more than a hundred Britons have flown to Switzerland to commit suicide in recent years. It's legal there, and there are services that help you control the process. And why not? We are a society accustomed to both party planners and anesthesiologists. Why shouldn't we be able to manage the circumstances and sensations of our death?
But it's expensive. With only Switzerland in the market, there's little competition. And in addition to the 4,000 euros required for the services of Dignitas, you also have to pay for your flight, and for those of your loved ones. As Annie Lowrey notes, a dignified death at a way and time of your choosing is becoming a luxury reserved for the rich:
It's an expensive way to die -- it costs 4,000 Euros for Dignitas' services, plus the cost of bringing out one's family. And, because it is so expensive, only the wealthy seem to choose to do it. The titled Downeses. Businesspeople. University professors. Doctors.
One can imagine other terminally ill patients, in extraordinary pain and with no quality of life, wishing to end their life in a manner of their choosing, but being unable to do so because of the cost.
Britain's laws, de facto, make it possible for the rich to die via assisted suicide, but impossible for the poor to do so.
It reminds me of one of the common arguments over abortion laws. Women in countries like Portugal (which has restrictive abortion laws) or states like South Dakota (where virtually no clinics provide the service) often need to travel far distances to obtain the service. Which means the rich are able, and the poor aren't.
Posted by: jkaren | July 15, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rt42 | July 16, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: tomtildrum | July 16, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jkaren | July 16, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Nimed | July 16, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.