Thursday, January 25, 2007

Assisted Suicide: The Topic of Films and Books

A person’s right to die has been the focus of many movies over the years, including award winning films Million Dollar Baby, starring Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood, and The Sea Inside, directed by Alejandro Amenábar, and EXIT: The Right to Die, an advocacy piece filmed in Switzerland.

The literary world has also addressed the topic of assisted suicide. Unplugged: Reclaiming Our Right to Die in America and Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying, are non-fiction books that explore the topic in great detail. And April 2007 (just two months before the release of the infamous ‘Dr. Death’ a.k.a. Jack Kevorkian) sees the release of the highly anticipated ‘assisted suicide novel’ Whale Song, a work of fiction by me--Canadian author Cheryl Kaye Tardif.

Whale Song is published by Kunati Books and explores a young woman’s search for answers years after the mysterious and tragic assisted suicide of her mother who was suffering from Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. As a child, the main protagonist is haunted by strange visions and lost memories. She is faced with every emotion―heartbreak, sorrow, fear, guilt, and finally forgiveness and hope. Whale Song is a novel for almost any age, since I believe I tackle this controversial subject with delicate compassion. Whale Song neither endorses nor condemns assisted suicide or the right to die, but it does leave the reader thinking about their own mortality.

In a recent interview, I stated, “Assisted suicide is one of the most horrifying scenarios a person could imagine…it is an issue that has fascinated and saddened me.” Questioned further about my own personal feelings regarding this issue, I went on to say, “Given the right circumstances and knowing the suffering that a loved one is enduring, I might consider it, if there was no other alternative and no hope. I am not saying I agree or disagree, but I can understand how someone may feel it is the only option. If it was your mother and she was begging you to end her misery and pain, would you do it?”

Euthanasia, assisted suicide, the right to die or dying with dignity has and always will be a topic of controversy. And with the expected release of the infamous ‘Dr. Death’, a.k.a. Jack Kevorkian, in June 2007, assisted suicide is making headlines once again. Kevorkian has claimed responsibility for at least 130 assisted deaths, and he claims he will live out his life writing and speaking. Upon his release, he will be 79, and he suffers from numerous ailments and may have less than a year to live.

While some may think Kevorkian is Satan’s spawn, others believe he is a merciful angel. Certainly, his actions have made the world question both medical practices and legal systems. Right to die organizations have sprung up all over the world in the past two or more decades, including Compassion and Choices in the US and Dying with Dignity in Canada. Most of these organizations believe in educating the public in their right to choose how they want to end their life when faced with a debilitating disease.

Books like Whale Song and films like Million Dollar Baby will always provoke the controversy of assisted suicide, as they are meant to. Perhaps as we become more educated on the chronic pain and suffering that many endure, we will find a more acceptable solution.

~ Cheryl Kaye Tardif is a freelance journalist, book reviewer and editor. She is also the author of three mystery novels set in Canada, including the highly anticipated ‘assisted suicide novel’ Whale Song, which will release in April 2007 by provocative publisher Kunati Books.

Please visit Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s official website:

And don't forget to check out my fellow Kunati author Ric Wasley's fast paced new novel, Shadow of Innocence.
The Newport Folk Festival provides a groovy backdrop for this fun and exciting mystery set in the music and drug soaked sixties. The Baby Boomers and everyone else are sure to enjoy this appealing mystery featuring a pair of musician partners in love and danger.

Don't miss
Shadow of Innocence from Kunati Publishing.
Available now for pre-order at


L. R. Wadsworth said...

Cheryl: I think that you have hit the mark with this article. It seems to have more balance than the previous one. I felt that after I read the first article that you had a strong bias in opposition to assisted suicide - after your remarks I read it a second time and still had the same feeling. This article gives me a much more balanced feeling - where discussion of the topic is suggested.

L. R. Wadsworth
Author: The Last Conspirator

Juanita Rose Violini said...

I believe the right to die is on par with the pro-life contraversory.

Any efforts to generalize or regulate such an extremely intimate and delicate matter can only do an injustice to the individuals'personal situation. Appropriate action will only be known on a case by case circumstance.

Cheryl Tardif said...

Thank you for your comments.

Larry: Thank you for your comments. In my first article, I was merely relating facts of Jack Kevorkian's cases. In all honesty, I am more on the assisted suicide bias than not. However, with the first article, other than my use of his nickname, it is written from a journalistic perspective. This is what he did; this is what happened.

Juanita: Thank you also for your comments. You're is a very delicate matter. And I agree that each case should be looked at carefully and considered individually. I know I wouldn't want to have to make that decision...either way.