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A Feminist's Suicide: One Professor's Radical Life Lessons

My favorite professor's suicide, which she planned with her family's consent, changed the way I think about taking one's own life.

Photo of Mariah Burton Nelson
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Here's the essay I wrote for the Stanford alumni magazine about this.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Atul Gawande's Being Mortal and the hospice movement challenge us to treat death as natural and inevitable. At 60, I'm intrigued by the prospect that Boomers might empower ourselves (again) & start making decisions based on the quality of our lives, rather than blindly accepting medical treatments based on an assumption that a long life is the goal. Death is not the enemy. (Love this challenge!!!)

This inspired (1)

Rituals of Farewell

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Photo of Michael Vargas

Great article.  I appreciate her celebrating her end of life moments.  Discussing about the things she has accomplished as she was surrounded by the people she loved.  To know the direction that life was going to take (Alzheimer) and to decide to take control of her own life and choose how she wanted to end it.  Peacefully in her sleep.  That takes a lot of courage and it is something worth noting.

Photo of Mariah Burton Nelson

Thanks, Michael. Yes, she flipped the concept of suicide - usually a desperate, shocking act by a severely distressed person - into a rational decision, empowering and even loving. As I see it, Sandy Bem is on the leading edge (as she was in feminist circles) of much-needed consciousness-raising about life, death, and choice. I hope that in the future, we all feel more in control of our health-related and even death-related choices -- and am so glad the IDEO is searching for ways to improve the dying experience.  Meanwhile, a friend died yesterday, of a brain tumor, and her spouse was very clear about not prolonging life with even IV fluids, for instance, and instead providing palliative medicine while letting nature take its course. I look forward to a day when such wisdom and compassion are commonplace - not only with hospice personnel, but with medical personnel too, and ordinary family members.

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