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death_pill_grayscaleThe Massachusetts State motto contains the phrase “peace only under liberty.”  The liberty to seek final peace is being sought in court by Roger Klinger, a Massachusetts physician with prostate cancer.  The cancer has not responded to treatment and is diagnosed as terminal.  Klinger wants the option to deal with that terminal condition on his own terms, by taking a fatal dose of medications prescribed for that purpose.  Massachusetts law prohibits its citizens from ending their own lives.

Five US states have laws allowing physician assisted suicide; Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and California.  The first such US law was Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act which allows terminally-ill people to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.  Oregonians enacted that law in 1997 though initiative petition.  Twenty years later the Oregon experience provides a model for the nation as other states deliberate similar liberties.  The Oregon Department of Public Health publishes an annual report on the Act. The reports are very instructive.  For instance, since 1988 1,127 Oregonians have ended their lives using the law.  The majority of those chose to die at home.  Only 64% who are prescribed lethal drugs under the law actually use them.

The political and moral issues of physician assisted suicide are complex.  The Oregon experience with the law and its practice stands as a guide for the nation.  But after all, Oregon’s state motto is “Fly on one’s own wings.”

Klinger focused his proclivity to helping people by becoming a facilitator for a Cape Cod Death Cafe. That event and those like it around the globe provide opportunities to discuss issues related to mortality.  Death Café Corvallis is such a venue now in it’s third year.

Peace and best fortune to Dr. Klinger and all people facing terminal illness.

Conversations on topics such as in this post are common at Death Café Corvallis. You are welcome to participate. Information at Death Cafe Corvallis.

Yawal2-Amazing MaharashtraBadi is a village with a population of about 20,000 located in the Yawai Wildlife Sanctuary in central India.

Badi is surrounded by scenic forested hills marked by shrines and temples.

In the first 3 months of 2016 80 Badi villagers committed suicide.

350 Badi villagers have taken their own lives in the last twenty years.

According to Rajendra Sisodiya, the sarpanch (elected official) of Badi;

“There are 320 families in our village and at least one person from each has killed himself or herself.”

Some of the villagers attribute the suicides to psychic attacks by malevolent demons.

Depending on how one characterizes a “demon” they may not be far wrong.Rakshasa

Pesticides long used in the region contain organophosphate which recent studies show may cause disruptions of cholinergic synapses in the brain.

Bodi is only 200 miles from Bhopal, the site of the worst industrial chemical poisoning disaster in history.

Those neural disruptions may be associated with depression and disordered thinking, and so possible related to the suicides.  A similar relationship of pesticides and suicide has been observed in China.

It is a profound notion to consider that environmental influences such as chemical may influence our minds and sense of self to the degree that people kill themselves.

Such a chemical influence is insidious in ways that 144px-Lifelinelogooverlap the concept of the “demonic.”

I wonder how many invisible influences are at work in the inner struggles of many people, including the 800,000 suicides world wide.

At least the story of Bodi is sufficient to cause all of us to reflect on why we experience inner struggle and to spark a doubt in the form “maybe it is not just me.”

I hope that India and China lay off the pesticide use even on the possibility that people are being physically and mentally poisoned.

Jon facilitates Death Café Corvallis which is open to all and meets weekly in Corvallis Oregon.



80 deaths in 3 months in ‘suicide village’ Badi – Times of India. (n.d.). Retrieved May 07, 2016, from

London, L., Flisher, A., Wesseling, C., Mergler, D., & Kromhout, H. (2005). Suicide and exposure to organophosphate insecticides: Cause or effect? Am. J. Ind. Med. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 47(4), 308-321. doi:10.1002/ajim.20147

Organophosphate poisoning. (n.d.). Retrieved May 06, 2016, from

Zhang, J., Stewart, R., Phillips, M., Shi, Q., & Prince, M. (n.d.). Pesticide exposure and suicidal ideation in rural communities in Zhejiang province, China. Retrieved May 06, 2016, from


Image Acknowledgements

Yawal2-Amazing Maharashtra.jpg


vandeVeldeWillemY_EnglishShipInAGale_1690Life expectancy for Americans overall has taken a slight but abrupt turn downwards.

This is significant because it marks an end to the continuous increase in American life expectancy since the 1970s.

Part of this change is due to increase in the number of Americans committing suicide.

People killing themselves in the United States has risen to it’s highest level in nearly 30 years.

In 2014, 43,000 Americans took their own lives [].

Globally about 800,000 people die from suicide each year [].

Men are far more prone to suicide than women; in 25,848 American men killed themselves as opposed to 6711 American women in 2005 [].

The suicide rate among women, however, is accelerating.

The most affected group is middle-aged adults.  Since 1999 the suicide rate for this age group has increased 40%.

Since 2007 the rate of completed suicides among 144px-LifelinelogoAmericans aged 40–64 years escalated sharply.

Three recent studies shed light on the reasons for these increases, because the primary factors propelling middle-aged suicide are economic.

The Great Recession of 2007-2009 coincides with the dramatic surge of American suicide.

In “Suicide and the Great Recession of 2007–2009″ (Phillips, 2014) studies suicide reporting collected by states to find that “suicide rates for individuals between the ages of 35 and 64 rose sharply during the first decade of the 21st century, an unusual pattern since suicide rates for this age group have either been stable or declining for decades” and that “Increasing unemployment proves to be a potent explanation for the rise in suicide rates among the middle-aged.”

That studies shows that economic factors did not have the same impacts among the young and the elderly.

A study led by Kathleen Fowler, “Increase in Suicides Associated With Home Eviction and Foreclosure During the US Housing Crisis” (Fowler, 2015), 10023282_5d37f3d84f_bdemonstrated that home foreclosures and evictions are closely correlated with increasing suicides.

Eviction and foreclosure-related suicides doubled from 2005 to 2010.

Taken alone, foreclosure-related suicides, which increased 253% in that five year period.

Hempstead and Phillips used national data on causes of death to confirm the relationship of circumstances related to economic crisis to middle-aged suicides.

They also found that “suffocation is a method more likely to be used in suicides related to job, economic, or legal factors, and its use increased disproportionately among the middle-aged.”

While various means of dispatching oneself remain in use, “suicides using suffocation increased 59.5% among those aged 40–64 years between 2005 and 2010.”

Taken together this new knowledge indicates ways to focus on people in desperate situations.

If suicide among middle-aged and otherwise health people is a public health issue, then our health systems must take economics into account as factors of concern.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Jon facilitates Death Café Corvallis which is open to all and meets weekly in Corvallis Oregon.



Fowler, K.A, Gladden, R.M, et. al. (2015). Increase in Suicides Associated With Home Eviction and Foreclosure During the US Housing Crisis: Findings From 16 National Violent Death Reporting System States, 2005–2010. American Journal of Public Health, 105:2, 311-316.

Hempstead, Phillips (2015). Rising Suicide Among Adults Aged 40–64 Years: The Role of Job and Financial Circumstances. American Journal of  Preventative Medicine, 48(5):491–500.

Phillips, JA and Nugent, C.N. (2014). Suicide and the Great Recession of 2007–2009 The role of economic factors in the 50 U.S. states. Social Science & Medicine 116 (2014).

World Health Organization: Mental Health


Image Acknowledgements




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