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King: Why not an end of our own choosing?

POSTED: August 26, 2014 1:00 a.m.

Two weeks ago, The Times reported Robin Williams’ suicide. I’m sad for a number of reasons, maybe not the same as other people’s reasons but just as intense. I am sad because the world lost a gifted comedian. To quote Ella Wheeler Wilcox, who wrote “Laugh and the world laughs with you:”

This sad old earth must borrow its mirth,

It has troubles enough of its own.

I’m sad for his family and friends, but most of all, I’m sad because — if the stories are correct — he died alone and hanged himself with his own belt.

Williams fought his demons as best he could. He had the financial resources to get professional help. It didn’t work. He wanted to die.

Whatever you feel about suicide, give the man credit for making his own decision. I’m sad it had to happen the way it did, but I honor his right to do it and hope his death will open a much-needed discussion about the right to end life at a time and place of one’s own choosing.

I do not want to die, not as long as I can drive along Ga. Highway 17 and look out at Nacoochee Valley and the mountains that surround it. Not as long as I can look at the fields and see the cows and geese grazing together. Not as long as I can watch the sun rise in the east and see its rays creep along the valley floor. There is so much beauty in this world if we just look beyond our human failings.

No, I don’t want to die, but I want the right to do it at a time and place of my own choosing.

I’ve known suicide. It runs in our family. I prayed diligently for a dear friend who repeatedly told me, “I want to die.” Finally, she fell, hit her head, and never recovered consciousness.

When she finally died, her daughter who witnessed the fall, was overcome with guilt because, though the daughter was a doctor, she’d not been able to grant her mother’s final request.

How much better it would be to call family and friends together, drink a toast to life itself and down the hemlock?

This idea will be deeply offensive to many, but around the country more and more people applaud states like Oregon, Vermont and Washington that have adopted aid-in-dying laws. New Jersey, I hear, is considering similar steps.

A living will is not enough. I have known several individuals who had specifically asked not to be resuscitated, but who were hauled back to life by some well–meaning intern or first responder when their heart stopped.

Opposition to assisted suicide is not rational. But then mankind is not a rational animal. More than any other species, we are emotional. Like all other sentient creatures, we resist death.

I understand that, but why — please tell me — do people resist another person’s choice in this matter? Fear, of course, but fear of what?

Most religions condemn suicide, some more strenuously than others, but all religions provide exceptions, even to the point of glorifying the perpetrator. If Jesus was God, then electing death on the cross was a form of suicide.

Interestingly enough, the Quran appears to have the greatest number of passages condemning the taking of one’s own life, while at present Islam encourages the faithful to do just that in the name of God.

Did I say mankind was not rational?

We are living in a time of amazing medical advancement. We’ve extended human life expectancy by many years, but like everything this comes at a cost.

Robin Williams was a comic genius. That too came at a cost. He burned brightly for a while, then he burned out. Let’s pray he is now at peace.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at


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