Bioethics News

Searching for a new name

Legalisation of physician-assisted suicide in four American states left out one thing: a name for what happens. The laws in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California specify only that what happens is not suicide. An English name for this phenomenon was a topic raised at the 2016 Conference World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies in Amsterdam earlier this month.

Members of the Alt-Suicide group, an American-based internet forum which includes some of the leading names in “choosing an early exit at the end of life”, considered 31 words and phrases in 2014. These included Cathartic Death, Deliberate Life Completion, Exiting, Rational Life Termination, Non Adscititious Death, Consensual Murder, and Rational and Loving Suicide. “Dying with Dignity” was the favourite in a small survey.

One of the members of the forum, Bill Simmons, a California real estate attorney, has been lobbying hard for the word “dignicide”, even though it was the least preferred in the Alt-Suicide survey.

The analysis he presented at the conference is interesting. The movement needs, he contends, “a more positive, single word that is not burdened with negative connotation”. The members agreed that the word “suicide” should be taboo. The word should be short, so that it is easy to tweet. The task is, he says,  to “Replace an undesirable single word with a desirable single word.” Simmons concludes with a suggested slogan: “Our motto is: ‘Dignicide. You Decide.’”

No conclusion was reached about what word to use. 

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.