Rational Suicide

Your article on the prevalence of suicide among seniors (“Out of Focus,” 1/30) treats suicide as an unalloyed “problem” — the authors use that word, and the tone prevails throughout the article.

Suicide is a poor choice sometimes, but not always. Sure, youth and younger adults have their whole lives ahead of them, and ducking a life challenge by suicide usually makes matters worse for themselves and those close to them.

But seniors have growing health issues that make life varyingly unpleasant and difficult; they can’t always replace satisfying lost roles in life (job, partnerships, recreations); and they’ve already lived most of their lives. (At age 79, I’m qualified to speak).

Modern medicine has thrust this uncomfortable stage of life upon us. Until a generation or two ago, I’d be dead naturally long before now; as it is, my oncologist keeps me shuffling along with the side effects of leukemia.

Same for my wife, who has Parkinson’s disease. I’ve lost everything that I used to enjoy in life, except the wonderful companionship that my wife and I continue to share. I’m grateful for what the doctors can do for us, but longer life is not an undiluted benefit.

We should all have control over our own lives to the extent possible. This includes a senior’s right to choose when and how to bring their physical life to an end when it is no longer satisfying and tolerable, just as it includes women’s rights over their own bodies.

Pete Benson

Fall Creek