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Culture of Death Watch: The Media Are Becoming Increasingly Pro Suicide

Posted May 02 2009 11:07pm
Pay close attention to how the story I am about to discuss from the Philadelphia Inquirer was written to give a favorable impression of a suicide.

It is about a woman named Rona Zelniker, who killed herself because of a disabling disease. Note that the word "suicide" is never used except in a brief reference to the Oregon law. There is no doubt that was deliberate: The (assisted) suicide movement has convinced many in the media not to use that term except in cases of transitory distress or teenagers--because it is judgmental and has a negative connotation. Can't have that: Suicide for reasons of disease or disability should be viewed positively.

Note too, that the issue of suicide prevention is never raised and that Zelniker's children supported her suicide. As usual, no real interviews from opponents of assisted suicide or mental health experts who help people cope with such difficult situations, and only one brief quote from Ira Byock who testified against legalizing assisted suicide in New Hampshire.

Even the title of the story is skewed: "Debating an End of Life Decision," when the only reason Zelniker's life ended was that she killed herself. From the story, byline Michael Vitez:
A year ago, when a doctor finally diagnosed the brain disease that had been making it harder for her to walk without falling, Rona Zelniker told her son and daughter that she was going to end her life while she still could, before complete disability set in. Her children were grateful for the way she prepared them, and for the time they had together at the end. "I must have cried 150 times in the last year," said Keith Zelniker, 32, her son. He scheduled off the week she was planning to die, writing on his work calendar, "bereavement time."
I'm sorry: I know we aren't supposed to criticize family members in cases such as this, but if my mother told me she wanted to kill herself and I said, in effect, "Okay, I'll put it in my calendar," she would really want to do herself in!

Zelnicker was going to have a Final Exit Network suicide until those meanies in Georgia law enforcement arrested four members of the network. So, she had to die alone:
Zelniker was enraged, but undeterred, in February when Georgia authorities charged four members of the Final Exit Network with assisted suicide, a felony. The Final Exit Network halted all trips to the bedside, fearful of more police sting operations... So on March 18, Rona Zelniker, one month shy of 61, with a progressive and incurable brain disease called Sporadic OPCA, ended her life alone, in the spare bedroom of her condominium, adjacent to the golf course, in an active-adult community in Monroe Township, Middlesex County, just off Exit 8 of the New Jersey Turnpike. Zelniker pulled a clear plastic hood over her head, fastened the bottom around her neck with Velcro, opened two helium canisters with tubes leading into the hood, and soon enough was unconscious, and then dead, in her black recliner.
The kids could not have been more supportive:
Keith and his sister stayed with their mother on Monday and Tuesday, said final goodbyes, and left at 10 p.m. "She didn't want us to see her with a bag on her head and helium tanks next to her," Keith said...This made him angry. "Things are so taboo," he said, "you have to do this backroom. This is like an abortion before Roe v. Wade."
Well, let's just open the euthanasia clinics and be done with it.

But she was so organized up to the end!

Rona Zelniker managed every last detail of her death. She emptied her closets to the Salvation Army. She changed her car title into Keith's name. She listed her condo with a Realtor, figuring it would take two months to begin showing it.

She shopped for the funeral home, and even bought a biodegradable urn for her ashes, which she left on the kitchen counter. In a three-page to-do list found near her body, she covered every detail, right down to the E-Z Pass: "Return tag, close account and get refund." She even left an extra $20 and a note for the cleaning lady, Nalva, scheduled to come in two days, "to clean out the fridge and freezer."

That's eerily like the play/movie 'Night Mother, that depicts a desperate conversation between a mother and suicidal daughter as the daughter organizes her things in preparation for killing herself. But at least in the movie, the mother tries to talk her out of it. Of course, unlike now, when the play and movie were produced, society opposed suicide.

Like previous similar sympathetic stories and documentaries that have shown on TV, the effect of this story is deliberate; to make suicide more acceptable. It was why Zelniker's children or some pro assisted suicide advocate contacted the media to get her story into print. The reporter made sure to fulfill expectations.

There can be little doubt our culture is becoming pro suicide. Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?
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