An ad hoc group of men and women who are involved in the right-to-die movement grew out of the biannual meeting of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies held in Chicago, U.S.A., September 18-20, 2014. Near the end of the conference Bill Simmons (Hemlock Society of San Diego) asked for volunteers to work with him to find a substitute for the word “suicide” when applied to people exercising their “Right to Die” (RtD) when terminally ill, suffering greatly, fearing progressive dementia, or a full life is over and living is a burden. The group called itself the “Alt Suicide” Group. This quest was based on the assumption that it is not “suicide” in the traditional sense when a cogent, non-depressed person, usually elderly, chooses to die in a non-violent manner with family in attendance and/or in support. Our opponents loudly proclaim that such self-taking of life is simply “suicide.”
The group began working with a list of 31 words and phrases (Attachment 2) that the members thought should be considered. No potential acronyms were proposed that members thought worth pursuing, but the word “dignicide” was suggested.
Most respondents agreed that “suicide” was not an appropriate word for the type of dying described. “Death/dying with dignity” was the preferred term among survey respondents. In two surveys the term “dignicide” was not well liked. However, in the third survey, the one that focused on “dignicide,” respondents liked it better when given a rationale for using it. Some group members felt the construction of the survey biased the results in favor of the word.
There appears to be no clear substitute for “suicide” to describe the hastening of death by those suffering great pain, those with progressive dementia, and those who simply have lived full lives but life has become a burden. The general populace prefers “death/dying with dignity” over all alternatives.
The group prefers simply “dying with dignity,” however context may call for “death with dignity.” Although controversial, some members of the group believe “dignicide” deserves further consideration.
Individuals and all right-to-die societies around the world should use the phrase “dying with dignity” or its variant “death with dignity” whenever possible. In other languages, the translated forms should likewise be used whenever possible. The rationale for this is that the surveys showed that
1) “suicide” is not appropriate, and
2) the phrase “dying with dignity” (including “death with dignity”) was clearly the best of the alternatives presented. Its wide-spread use will lead to the term being picked up by the media more and more often, and will hopefully be widely used by all instead of “suicide.”
The whole report, with all the results can be seen and read here. It is suggested to put the report on the agenda of the 2016 biennial WFRtDS meeting in Amsterdam.