Helibrun (aka Amanda Cross for academic mystery fans) was not ill and not unhappy. She simply decided that this was her time and that taking longer would, in words of one of her books, be" dangerous, lest we live past both the right point and our chance to die." The note she left said, “The journey is over. Love to all."
Disturbing. And the first question I raise here is a simple one. Is there a decent history of suicide? Long ago I read a book by A. Alvarez called The Savage God, but I think the tour he offered was intended more as an exploration of his (and Sylvia Plath’s) demons than as a careful consideration.
But the article raised other troubling questions. One is, “What is moral?” Is rational suicide morally wrong, as some hold. Or is it the last free act of a free life?
The question that concerned me more is “What is sanity?” One psychologist suggested that someone like Heilbrun is, almost by definition, a victim of an underlying psychological disorder.
Maybe that is true. Maybe therapy would have given Heilbrun another decade of life well spent.
Or maybe the worst thing you could do to someone is to have them spend their last years proving that they are not mentally ill because they want to die.
Sibyls in a most helpful cage.