Ever since Socrates took hemlock, suicide has been part of society, sometimes supported, often condemned. Today, many argue that we have a right-to-die, sort of an infinite extension of free speech or thought. Regardless, to actively involve doctors is a unique distortion of the medical arts, as if stopping a beating heart can somehow mend disease. For a healer to take life is bizarre and threatens the physician-patient relationship. If individuals really want and require assistance to die perhaps there is another solution.
A long trail of vital documents marks our lives. These include birth certificate, diplomas, driver’s and marriage license, advanced directives, wills and most recently the POLST. Perhaps we should create a new personal document. Its purpose would be to give each person not only permission to kill themselves, but access to the means. A permit controlled by the patient and only their responsibility. A passport for dying. A Suicide Certificate.
The Suicide Certificate would be a kind of application. A legal checklist, which once complete would allow the individual to die by their own hand, but in a controlled and definite manner.
What would go on this form? First, basic demographics; name, birth-date, address, social security number, etc. It is important to confirm that the right person is filling out the form. A photograph might be a good idea.
Next, statements regarding right-to-die laws. This could include a review of the sanctioned methods available, as well as the legal indications and limits for committing suicide. It might remind the applicant that a terminal disease is required, what is and is not a qualifying medical condition, and that suicide pacts are discouraged and therefore forbids sharing the lethal prescription. The whole form might start on-line and as part of the process an instructional video must be viewed and review answers given correctly, before it can be printed. Alternatively, an app could be developed.