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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

Liberty, REAL Wellness and the Right to Die Healthy

Thursday September 22, 2016

Introduction
        
A September 21 story in the Australian newspaper The Age by Fiona Stewart asked, “Should age be relevant to the right to die?” In Australia’s Northern Territory, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act was passed 20 years ago, but lasted less than a year before the federal Parliament in Canberra closed it down. The law allowed a terminally ill person, if adjudged to be of sound mind, to enlist the aid of a willing doctor for assistance in dying. The law provided that no doctor would be prosecuted for doing so.

However, the law was silent on the age issue. It never came up during the legislative debate in the Northern Territory. Today, four states in the U.S. plus Switzerland and three countries in the European Union allow doctor assisted suicide. (The preferred phrase is aid in dying.) Until 2014, only the Netherlands allowed euthanasia for children, placing the minimum age at twelve years. In 2014, Belgium removed the law’s reference to age requirements, reasoning that suffering is suffering, regardless of date of birth. The law has been used sparingly in Belgium. Administered by the Federal Euthanasia Commission, a terminally ill 17-year-old used this method to put an end to "unbearable physical pain.”

Wellness Ethics

REAL wellness enshrines reason, exuberance and athleticism (exercise and nutrition) as dimensions of a dynamic process for living life to the fullest possible extent. There is a fourth dimension, as well—liberty, which essentially means embracing the freedom to live your life the way you want to live it—and as late as possible, to die healthy, when you and nobody else decides it’s as good a time as any to pack it in.

Modern deathLiteralist readers, please understand that die healthy does not mean die when you’re still healthy. Sometimes, you have to read a bit into a fun, catchy phrase. Die Healthy is a metaphor Grant Donovan and I have advanced for many years (and in two books) which we embrace still with more enthusiasm than ever. It means retaining control, the finger on the proverbial button or trigger that insures that you get to decide when to call it a life, at a time when, in your judgement, the future is bleak without promise. The decision to die healthy is best made when it’s still possible to smile, to feel somewhat serene, knowing that any prospect of even a moderate degree of good times ahead is nil. Thus, with a parting thought about experiences (WOs and DBRU equivalents) epic and triumphant, with confidence and courage founded on a disdain for needless suffering, the curtain is released and a fortunate life is closed with fond thoughts of those you love.

A Belgium psychiatrist, Dr. Lieve Thienpont, will address an Exit International conference in Melbourne, Australia this week. He will describe the categories that qualify Belgians for medical assistance when seeking to die: psychiatric illness and young and old people who declare themselves tired of life. In the U.S. Dr. Thienpont would get a welcome such that the late Jack Kevorkian would seem like a man whose popularity could have won the presidency in a landslide, for even in Belgium, Dr. Thienpont is highly controversial. Pro-lifers are gobsmacked over the very idea that anyone should get qualified assistance in ending his/her own life under any circumstances. In response, Dr. Thienpont asks why, if “treatment, let alone cure, is no longer possible, then why should such people be forced to live on if they want out?”

Besides the theocratic arguments that only a deity may decide when death should come, the issue becomes complex over the matter of establishing the mental, and thus the legal, capacity of anyone seeking help in dying. Terms like eugenics and the bogeyman of a slippery slope often come into play.

Not everyone is comfortable with a pragmatic approach to some of life’s most persistent questions, including when enough is enough regarding human pain and suffering, what is a minimally acceptable quality of life and, of course, who should get to make such calls.

My own view, provided consciousness is in play, is “who else but the one whose life is at issue?”

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COMMENTARY: GRANT DONOVAN

A very fine article that could not be improved by any reworking at this end.

My only comment relates to the assumptive nature of the current euthanasia debate. It starts from a presumptive position that life is preordained and so valuable that it must be enshrined in laws and not trusted to individual sovereignty. When the easily observable, inherent fact is that life is random and meaningless and should be terminated at any age by the individual for any reason and no reason. I'm not sure what gene the need to control other people's lives sits on but it is certainly dysfunctional. Fortunately, thousands of people around the world each day beat the legal system easily by invoking their right to suicide. These people could definitely do with some assistance to die without pain. It's a very screwy world that puts time, energy and millions of dollars into stopping one person exercising control over their own existence, while simultaneously bombing the crap out lives they don't value.
Grant Donovan and Don Ardell
This is true across religions.

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Grant Donovan, Ph.D. is the founder of the Australian Wellness Foundation. Grant has worked in the wellness education field for more than 30 years. He is co-authored a number of business and wellness books, including two with Don Ardell, the latest being “Wellness Orgasms: The Fun Way to Live Well and Die Healthy.” He also co-authored the best-selling, “Coffee Conversations: The Simple Leadership Secret of High Performance Workplace,” with Shane Garland.

Signed Don Ardell

(Ed. Note: Views expressed in this and other columns are those of the author and not necessarily those of the SeekWellness Editorial Board.)

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