By Culturekiosque Staff
NEW YORK, 2 MARCH 2010 "I am dying.
There is no sense in
trying to deny that fact," 59-year-old Craig Ewert says of his rapid
deterioration just months after being diagnosed with ALS, a motor neuron
disorder often referred to as Lou Gehrigs disease.
"Im not tired of living," explains Ewert, a retired computer science
professor. "Im tired of the disease, but Im not tired of living. And I
still enjoy it enough that Id like to continue. But the thing is that I
The right-to-die movement and the debate over physician-assisted
suicide are decades old in secular Europe. Although documented
since the 1980s in the United States, both the movement and the
debate in predominantly reactionary Christian America are,
nevertheless, an entirely different matter. Tonight, the Public
Broadcasting Service's (PBS) public affairs series, Frontline,
examines this issue and that of assisted sucide.
Entitled The Suicide Tourist and directed by John
Zaritsky, the film is a portrait of Craig Ewerts final days, as the
Chicago native and his wife pursue a physician-assisted suicide in the one
place where its legal for foreigners to go to end their lives:
Switzerland. With unique access to Dignitas, the Swiss nonprofit [that
charges 10,000 Swiss francs ($10.500) for the procedure], has helped more
than 1,000 people die since 1998, The Suicide Tourist
follows Ewert as he debates the morality and confronts the reality
of choosing to die before his disease further ravages his body and he
loses the option to die without unbearable suffering.
"At this point, Ive got two choices," Ewert reasons. "If I go through
with it, I die, as I must at some point. If I dont go through with it, my
choice is essentially to suffer and to inflict suffering on my family and
then die possibly in a way that is considerably more stressful and
painful than this way. So Ive got death and Ive got suffering and death.
You know, this makes a whole lot of sense to me."
Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and several other countries,
as well as in two U.S. states, but only Switzerland allows outsiders to go
there to end their lives, leading to criticism about "suicide tourism."
The Swiss government has recently countered by imposing greater
restrictions on the sorts of cases Swiss doctors can approve for suicide,
largely limiting it to those in the late stages of terminal illness who
feel their lives have become unbearable the same standard thats in
place in Oregon and Washington.
"There are people who will look at this and say, No. Suicide is wrong.
God has forbidden it. You cannot play God and take your own life." Ewert
anticipates some of the objections to the act hes preparing to carry out.
"But you know what? This ventilator is playing God. If I had lived without
access to technology, chances are I would be dead now."
As Ewert journeys through Switzerland and is wheeled into the Zurich
apartment rented by Dignitas, where he will drink the lethal sedative that
will end his life, his wife, Mary, stands by his side. She is there to
kiss him goodbye and wish him a "safe journey" as the medication takes
hold and his eyes close for the final time.
"In a sense, I lost Craig six months ago as he was," Mary Ewert
explains. "[These last months] we probably had more of one another than
maybe in the past.
You know, there may have been some people who still
think, well, I wouldnt have done that or he shouldnt have done that or
something. But if they felt that way, they didnt say anything to me about
I [still] feel his presence."
The Suicide Tourist airing Tuesday, 2 March at 9 p.m. (ET) on
Headline photo: Craig and Mary Ewert
Photo courtesy of
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