Allan J Gold

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Allan J Gold
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Suicide as an escape option, it’s the wrong choice.

Vol. 10, #8 – June 14, 2018  –  ALLAN GOLD’S BLOG

Gold's Legal Minue


Second blog post of series on Elder Law for seniors and their families, particularly spouses, adult children, caregivers, etc.


BLOG ALERT! We have interrupted the business series to bring you in this space another series, this one on Elder Law, another area of specialization of Attorney Gold.

OPEN LETTER TO READERS FROM A. J. GOLD:

You may or may not know that Elder Law is another area of specialization of mine. In the previous blog post, I introduced you to the field of Elder Law. This week, I was planning to upload the next in this series on the topic of pensions (& retirement income). But my plans were changed due to the recent reports in the media of the untimely deaths of Kate Spade (aged 55) and Anthony Bourdain (aged 61). Of course, I was saddened by the news of the deaths. But when it was reported that they died by suicide, my heart just sank. And when I realized that it involved people 55+, my heart sank even lower. You see, suicide is unfortunately, a big part of the story of older people and I really care! And that’s why I am writing a two part blog, the first today, as the lead-off, about suicide (prevention) and next week, dealing with assisted suicide, euthanasia and the like.

Truly yours,
A. Gold

Note. A.J. Gold is the author of the following books:

“Elder Law in Canada*ELIC*” It’s a ground breaking (2,500+ page) legal text, acquired by legal libraries, Bar Associations, and Law Schools. (For testimonials, excerpts etc, please visit www.practitionerspress.com)

“Estate Document Professor* EDP* (Part of the www.45pluslifehandbook.com* series), informing Canadians everywhere about greater estate preparedness, covering: Last will and testament (will); Power of attorney (POA); Advance medical directive (living will); Trust; Organ donation consent; Estate Inventory and Distribution Survey(For testimonials, excerpts etc, please visit www.practitionerspress.com)

A. TOPIC & PROPOSITION: “Suicide. As an escape option, it’s the wrong choice. Let’s start making the case against suicide (and all its permeations) together with a few simple steps for its prevention, etc. (Part #1)

Opening statement in the Case Of We, Everyday People Versus Suicide”

I’m sure that you will agree with me when I say that nearly all of us, generally speaking, would be against suicide, whatever the reason or motivation, whatever the circumstance, whichever the method, etc. However, some might say that they can comprehend someone taking his or her own life, following a severe personal defeat and out of a wish to do the honourable thing. Others may try to explain that death at one’s hand is sometimes the result of an uncontrollable, single-mindedness of a person in a deep depression, suffering over-powering anguish from loss, rejection, retirement, lack of money, etc And some might even say that they could see themselves opening that black door out of a desperate desire for escape from total, permanent disability from bodily injury, or when faced with an incurable, debilitating disease or being at the end stage of a fatal illness. To all of them, I say suicide is NEVER the answer!

Simply put, the killing of oneself is highly destructive to your life. No matter how you cut it, it cannot contribute to your well-being. For me, It’s the supreme example of “something bad” in the idiomatic expression, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”, which means “an avoidable error in which something good is eliminated when trying to get rid of something bad, or in other words, rejecting the favorable along with the unfavorable.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_throw_the_baby_out_with_the_bathwater)

In contrast, it’s right to combat suicide in all instances; and prevention is a key aspect in this endeavor.

A.1 QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” Norman Cousins

“I don’t fear death so much as I fear its prologues: loneliness, decrepitude, pain, debilitation, depression, senility. After a few years of those, I imagine death presents like a holiday at the beach.” Mary Roach
(Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/death)

(And yes, he-she really did say that!)  

B. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT …TO ME?

First, when somebody expresses a desire to commit suicide and then attempts it, like most people, you would most probably say, that he or she is not well and needs aid and we should do everything to help this person.
Second, if someone should succeed in committing suicide, nearly all the rest of us still here would say that this is a tragic eventuality, which should not have happened. And we might ask ourselves: “Was there something we could have done to stop it?”

Third, we are told that this can happen to anyone- we’re all at risk. If you’re getting older, life might some day sour and this means that the danger of you, taking your own life, might increase. Learning about suicide and helping others see the light could save your own life.

C. ARGUMENT: FACTS, FIGURES, LEGALITIES & COMMENTARY

Here are the straight facts. “Approximately 5,800 suicides take place in Canada annually, slightly below deaths due to cancers of the colon and breast.[1][2][3]

Suicide is the seventh-most common cause of death among Canadian males, and tenth-highest among both sexes combined.[1][2][3] According to Statistics Canada reviewer Tanya Navaneelan, in the period from 1950–2009, males committed suicide at a rate of three times that of women. The much higher rate of male suicide is a long-term pattern in Canada. At all points in time over the past 60 years, males have had higher rates of suicide than females.[4]” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_in_Canada).

Figures. As per the World Health Organization, here’s the world view of suicide.

 

Suicide data

Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Many more attempt suicide. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.

Suicide is a global phenomenon; in fact, 78% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2015. Suicide accounted for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 17th leading cause of death in 2015. Effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts.

There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.”(Source: http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/)

Figures. Honestly, I found numerous lists

As per Simon Kent’s column published June 15, 2013 in the Toronto Sun titled, “Elderly suicide rates hitting new highs as traditional social networks break down”, the numbers are as follows:

Statistics

  • People 65 and older have the highest suicide rate of any age group.
  • Baby boomers have higher suicide rates than previous generations.
  • Men 65 and older have the highest suicide rate in Canada — 33 per 100,000 people.
  • Adults 65 and older who commit suicide have made 2-4 previous attempts.
  • Older adults tend to use lethal means (firearms) when attempting suicide.
  • Older adults talk less about suicide than other groups and because they often live alone, have less chance of survival after attempts.

When older people die, the cause of death (including suicide) may be less rigorously investigated than in younger people.— Source: Centre for Suicide Prevention” (Source: http://torontosun.com/2013/06/15/elderly-suicide-rates-hitting-new-highs-as-traditional-social-networks-break-down/wcm/7e01f9b2-3127-4045-a5f9-897914c0928c)

Here’s more data from 2016.

Suicide by Age in Canada

The largest population of suicides in Canada are from men and women 45-59. All Ages data includes suicide of those of unknown age and those under 10.

Age                Rate per 100,000 persons % of Total
10  to  14         1.8 1%
15  to  19       10.2 5%
20  to  24      12.1 6%
25  to  29      11.4 6%
30  to  34      11.6 6%
35  to  39      12.8 6%
40  to  44      15.5 8%
45  to  49      17.5 9%
50  to  54      17.1 9%
55  to  59      17.6 9%
60  to  64      13.4 7%
65  to  69      10.5 5%
70  to  74       11.1 6%
75  to  79         9.3 5%
80  to  84        9.9 5%
85  to  89       11.1 6%
90+                     8.1%

(Source: http://dustinkmacdonald.com/canadian-suicide-statistics-2016/)

Legalities. Of course, murder is illegal. And suicide is the murder of a human being; albeit where the perpetrator and the victim are the same person.

 

When it comes to the (federal) criminal law, a key provision is Art. 229 Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46) reads as follows

229 Culpable homicide is murder

(a) where the person who causes the death of a human being

  • (i) means to cause his death, or
  • (ii) means to cause him bodily harm that he knows is likely to cause his death, and is reckless whether death ensues or not;

(b) where a person, meaning to cause death to a human being or meaning to cause him bodily harm that he knows is likely to cause his death, and being reckless whether death ensues or not, by accident or mistake causes death to another human being, notwithstanding that he does not mean to cause death or bodily harm to that human being; or

(c) where a person, for an unlawful object, does anything that he knows or ought to know is likely to cause death, and thereby causes death to a human being, notwithstanding that he desires to effect his object without causing death or bodily harm to any human being. R.S., c. C-34, s. 212.

When it comes to Quebec law, reference is made to the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, CQLR c C-12, particularly without limitation, Art. 48, which is reproduced below.

“48. Every aged person and every handicapped person has a right to protection against any form of exploitation.
Such a person also has a right to the protection and security that must be provided to him by his family or the persons acting in their stead.
1975, c. 6, s. 48; 1978, c. 7, s. 113.”

Commentary. Here’s my opinion on things. When it comes to suicide statistics, I suppose everyone can crunch the numbers and come up with a conclusion. I will leave it to the reader to make his or her own deductions. But what is patently clear to me, the figures for 50+ are high.

Legally speaking, the criminal statute doesn’t really prohibit the taking of one’s own life. But this issue is really moot since the perpetrator is deceased. Of course, now dead and buried, he or she cannot be brought up on charges. However, for the survivors, beyond bearing the brunt emotionally, feeling guilt, they could also be called upon to answer for not doing something or enough to avoid the loss of life.

D. TIPS & RECOMMENDATIONS

1. KNOW that the welfare of the elderly is not only the job of family- it bears upon all of us. To be human, walking the right path, we must never be onlookers, not getting involved. Instead, we must intervene for seniors and protect them.

2. INFORM yourself about mental illness, depression, suicide, etc. To this end, (a) RESEARCH online; and (b) CONTACT non-profit organizations advocating and/or providing help in this area. (c) REFLECT about the meaning of life- surely we were not given life to throw it away!

3. ASK yourself a simple question “How can the taking of one’s own life make one’s life better?” In my belief, it’s impossible. Indeed, it’s a classic oxymoron.

4. RECOGNIZE that suicide is everybody’s business. DO something …without delay. REMEMBER that it’s not just out of a wish of rendering an altruistic service or doing a good deed. It’s also in compliance with your positive legal obligation of being a ‘Good Samaritan’.

5. TELEPHONE & VISIT the people in your circle of family and close friends, particularly those in late middle age and older, suffering a loss from a death, feelings of defeat/rejection like being fired or going through a divorce, bankruptcy, etc. And TELEPHONE & VISIT again and again. Staying around might be the means of downgrading the event to a mere rough patch.

6. NOTE the demeanor of .the people near and dear. PAY attention to what they are saying. If the talk is real dark, about unbearable pain and the search for escape at any price, LISTEN up!

7. BECOME more aware of seniors in your neighborhood. Dropping out of sight might mean they are receding from life. NOTE that a common problem of the elderly is not being sufficiently social. This tends to breed loneliness, sense of abandonment, hopelessness, etc. The solution is connectivity. No I’m not speaking about your mobile phone. Instead, it’s about older people connecting with others, having stimulating conversations, enjoying companionship, and yes, perhaps developing and/or nurturing meaningful relationships, etc. Once you comprehend this, you might recognize that a good first step is to pick up the phone and call the person at risk. You see, such an individual really needs and wants somebody; who cares, offering to be there for him or her. And form your perspective, KNOW that being there to hold someone’s hand when it’s cold, to give hope when a person is at the end of his or her rope, giving strength to stand up and face the world, is a righteous deed!

8. REACH out to these individuals and call and visit. Of course, it’s OK to poke your nose into someone else’s business when he or she is at risk of doing harm to self or others. Indeed, it’s always a good time to inquire into suicidal thoughts.

9. CONTACT, without delay, parents, siblings or adult children of the object person, verbalizing your concerns. Furthermore, TELEPHONE the patient’s family doctor- it’s not a breach of confidentiality to give a physician a heads up on a patient. If it turns out, you’ve over-reacted, the result is that others may monitor the subject with a watchful eye in the future. On the other hand, KEEP in mind that the failure to communicate in such instances may be fatal!

10. BE cognizant that the Canadian health network is good, but not perfect and there are people falling through cracks. And many of those are suffering from a mental illness. I encourage you to stand up and express something of the sentiment of the actor, Peter Finch in the movie “Network” who said: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Then, CALL your Member of Parliament and member of provincial legislature and push for new programs and the enhancement of those existent, all to better serve those suffering a mental illness. (N.B. One possible source of new funding is from the Public Security budget. You see, funds dealing with the mentally ill is also for the safety of the public since those looking to kill themselves might also harm others.)

11. THINK and COME up with new ideas how to combat the problem. Here are a few of mine.

11.1 ORGANIZE a telephone buddy system, twinning seniors, especially those who are without family, living alone. The company will be good, but more, it’s to ensure that solitary people can be loosely monitored.

11.2 HAVE provincially-funded community health agencies (CLSC in Quebec) start an outreach program employing 50+ individuals as senior brigadiers (similar to school walkway brigadiers for children) to network with and track seniors, both junior seniors and senior seniors in their immediate locality.

11.3 START a voluntary neighborhood watch program (like that for children), but this one, offering themselves as a “go to” person for a senior in need who is resident in a radius of one or two blocks.

E. CLOSING –LEGAL MATTERS!

The widely-held view is that people normally want to live. In contrast, a desire to commit suicide is usually perceived as abnormal; and typically, a person so thinking is considered in need of immediate assistance and medical care. Indeed, it’s healthy to want to walk on the up side of Gd’s green earth. But, this right and wrong dichotomy is no longer as simple as it was, this with recent changes in the law about euthanasia and/or assisted suicide, etc.
Of course, it’s going to be really tough to win the war against suicide, but we can always do better, trying to win one battle after another, saving one life at a time. And legal matters. It’s just another tool in the tool box beforehand. And afterwards, it serves as a deterrent to those thinking suicide is perfectly acceptable. But, know that it has now become more complicated to navigate this new, legal environment.

F. SENIOR LITE SPOT: There’s absolutely nothing funny about getting old (& dying) , except…

• Q: Where is the cemetery? A: It’s in the dead centre of town! (Here’s another one – but of course, you heard this one.) Q. Why is that cemetery so popular? A. People have always been dying to get in! (But what about this one?) Q. Why do cemeteries have fences around them? A. Because people are dying to get in.
• The difficulty about all this dying, is that you can’t tell a fellow anything about it, so where does the fun come in? ~ Alice James

(And yes, you really have to be a certain age to appreciate this.)

G. PREVIEW OF NEXT IN THE BLOG SERIES: Pensions (& Retirement Income)

Do you think about your retirement? Do you stress over your pensions, be it to be government, company, etc.? Or are you concerned about the revenue of an elderly loved one. If so, you’re in luck. Next week, I will write a bog post on Pensions (& Retirement Income). Interested? See you next time.*   

N.B. Part #2 of the current Blog on suicide shall follow the current blog. It will deal with euthanasia and assisted suicide, etc. The blog on pensions (& retirement income) shall follow thereafter.

H. NOTICE – CAUTION -DISCLAIMER

The material provided herein is of a general nature, strictly for informational purposes. The interpretation and analysis is not to be misapplied to a personal situation with a particular set of facts. Under no circumstances, are the herein suggestions and tips, intended to bring a reader to the point of acting or not acting, but instead, the hope is that they are to be a cause for pause and reflection. It is specifically declared that this content is not to be a replacement of or substitution for legal or any other appropriate advice. To the contrary, for more information on these presents, related subjects or any other questions, it is the express recommendation of the author that everyone seek out and consult a qualified professional or competent adviser.   

*©/TM 2005, 2008 Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
©/TM 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED