Grace Dent: Modern life can be horrific. But assisted suicide is the easy – and often wrong – option, so don’t let the likes of Dignitas dignify it

A retired teacher ended her life because she ‘couldn’t adapt to the modern world’

Share

On 29 March, Anne – we know only her first name – killed herself because she was fed up with modern life. She was 89 and not terminally ill – just terminally sick of email and irritated by the rise of ready-meals. She fretted about the environment and thought the internet age had made us all “robots”. I have moments where I know exactly how she felt. Rather worryingly, don’t we all?

What intelligent person doesn’t log-on to their computer from time-to-time, staring at the sea of work demands, nags, passive-aggressive reminders and sponsorship begging, only to dream of a bygone age where people contacted us mainly by second-class post?

And so many people can’t peel a potato these days –can’t even feed themselves. I saw it on TV. Kids can’t even recognise a carrot even when Jamie Oliver is holding the aforementioned long pointy-ended orange vegetable while dressed as a  carrot himself.

Oh it makes me depressed. Modern life can be horrific, But because I am young – ok I’m 40 – and modern life can also be incredible. It’s full of WhatsApp chats, feminist triumphs, dancing to Destiny’s Child at 3am in stupid nightclubs, long-haul holidays, speedy Ocado deliveries, and, not least, it’s filled with full-time work which fools me into feeling I have great world‑changing purpose.

It seems that Anne, being 89, didn’t have as many of the good bits. The silly bits and the purposeful bits had evaporated, so she ended up drinking a lethal cocktail of barbiturates at a Dignitas clinic and passed away “with quiet determination”, according to Michael Irwin, the founder of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide.

When Anne was younger she was a Royal Navy Engineer and had also taught art. Her pre-death interview indicates that she was an erudite woman, not in pain, who was in fact killing herself because she was bewildered and deflated by an ever-changing world. She sounds, to me, depressed. I’d prefer Citalopram, not organised suicide, for the elderly. We cannot, I feel, condone suicide for elderly people who are just a bit sick of it all.

I have quietly supported assisted suicide for years. I haven’t loudly supported it because giving an increasingly free hand to people like Dignitas in an age of worldwide rising mental-health problems always felt precarious. Still, assisted suicide for the gravely sick, for those in a degenerative state, for those in the ghoulish grips of endless pain – this I can understand.

It is difficult to watch a documentary such as Louis Theroux’s Edge of Life – involving dying cancer patients – and feel that a little help in pushing people kindly into “that good night” is wrong. But elderly, downcast people who just can’t see “the point”? They should be cheered up, made to feel included, cherished, and – if needs be – medicated for their mood-dips.

As family members become elderly, the journey is tricky. Increasingly one becomes the adult and they become the child. They become stubborn and at times unable to be reasoned with. You become infuriated, they become isolated. Once proud, diligent people become increasingly likely to let burglars into their house, to respond to telephone scams, to stop feeding and caring for themselves, and now – in Anne’s case – people are planning their own suicide because they are sick of the rise of emails and the lack of the human touch.

In Anne’s request to Dignitas, she referred to her lack of energy, and she said that declining health had left her with “a life with no enviable future.” She said of the modern age: “I find myself swimming against the current. If you can’t join them, get off.”

I have a dream about what an old folks’ home might be like when I reach the age of 89. It’s a jolly, stimulating place where a load of us old gits watch Mad Men and Seinfeld from the beginning in a warm TV room. There will be nice snacks. There’s a music room for us all to bring vinyl and jabber on about our days of clubbing. There’s decent food, good, cheery nurses, days out at the pub, romances, projects and visitors for everyone as we all have a bit of a laugh before popping off – one by one – to the infinite heavenly nothing. It’s a small dream of feeling purposeful and included  to the end.

I’m sorry that Anne didn’t feel like that. I hope others won’t  copy her.

Twitter: @gracedent

Read more:
Retired British art teacher ends life at Dignitas ‘because she couldn’t adapt to modern world’

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The rules were simple: before the results are announced, don’t mention the S-word

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Howard Jacobson has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for the second time  

In praise of Howard Jacobson

Simon Kelner
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week