Same condition, Different response
“People who choose to end their lives usually do so because of a perception that they are alone and that no one cares about them, because of a loss of meaning and purpose or because they perceive their lives to be a burden on others.
“It is much more about the person than the disease.” – Dr Peter Saunders, UK
Paralysed after a rugby accident
Died by assisted suicide
Daniel James became paralysed from the neck down when a rugby scrum collapsed on him. After the accident he tried to commit suicide several times. About 18 months after his accident he died from assisted suicide in Switzerland, aged 23. His parents said he never came to terms with his disability.
“When someone has an injury like this, you think its the end of the world as life is going to change for ever,” said Daniel Burden, head of public affairs, Spinal Injuries Association, UK. “But our mantra is that life need not end if you are paralysed. We know of people with similar or worse injuries than Dan who have lived fulfilling lives.” Read the Guardian article here.
Leads a foundation supporting severly injured young people
At the age of 20 Matt Hampson was paralysed from the neck down in a collapsed rugby scrum. He described in his autobiography how he fought back to “get busy living”.
People with Locked-In Syndrome have complete paralysis of all their voluntary muscles, including most of their facial muscles. They are conscious and alert, but can usually communicate only by moving their eyes.
The French Association for Locked-In Syndrome did a study on “subjective well-being”. Almost three-quarters of respondents reported that they were content and happy. Only 13% suffered from depression at the time of the study. The longer people had Locked-In Syndrome, the more likely they were to report happiness, which suggests that they adapted to the condition.
The study also found that most people who wanted to die changed their minds. More than half had wanted euthanasia (a lethal injection from a doctor) at some point, but at the time of the study only 7% of them still felt that way.
Jean Dominique Bauby
Dictated a book by blinking
Jean Dominique Bauby was an actor and the editor of the fashion magazine Elle. In 1996, at the age of 53, he had a stroke and woke up paralysed in his whole body, except his left eye. He spent the next four months dictating his autobiography one letter at a time, by blinking when someone pointed to the correct letter of the alphabet. Only days after his book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, was published, he died of heart failure. The book has since also been made into a movie, nominated for 4 Oscars.
He set up the first support group for people with his condition. He blinked, “I have decided to carry on my fight against fatality by setting up the first association in the world for people suffering from Locked-In Syndrome.”
Dawn Faizee Webster
Completed a degree and wrote a book by blinking
In 2003 Dawn Faizee Webster had a stroke after giving birth that left her able to make only eye- and tiny head movements. She spent the next six years completing a university degree in Ancient History and writing a book about her experience – by blinking.
“When I first had my stroke, I realised I would not be able to do anything physical”, she says. “I then decided to use the thing that had not been affected and that was my brain.”
Asked for assisted suicide
Tony Nicklinson had a stroke in 2005 that paralysed his body and some of his facial muscles. He spent the next seven years wanting to die. He had the option of ending his life by blinking, using a gassing machine especially designed for him, but instead he wanted a lethal injection from a doctor, permitted by the Court. In 2012 he died from pneumonia a few days after hearing that the Supreme Court denied his request. See The Telegraph article
Glioblastoma (Brain Cancer)
Advocated compassionate care
Maggie Karner was diagnosed with glioblastoma in April 2014. She stated publicly that “there’s no way I will kill myself” and was determined to make the most of the life she had left. She advocated for more government funding for home-care and compulsory training for doctors in pain management. She wrote the article Suicide option would undermine my cancer battle and was interviewed on CNN.
“It takes a long time to come to terms with a disease, especially terminal illness,” she said in a video message for Brittany Maynard. “And then you start thinking, “Okay, this is the new me, this is the new normal, and I can still appreciate every moment.” She died of her cancer in September 2015.
Died by assisted suicide
Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with brain cancer in January 2014. She moved to Oregon to become eligible for a lethal prescription from a doctor. She was told that she would have six months or less to live and announced that she would take the drugs at the end of that six month period, on 1 November 2014. At the end of October she was still physically strong and had quality of life – she traveled to the Grand Canyon. On the 29th of October she announced that she changed her mind about dying because she still had “enough joy left”. However, she died three days later. Some speculated that she may have been under pressure to end her life as planned.