[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] Try as he might, Marc couldn’t get the suicide idea out of his head. There wasn’t much he could do about it, really, since nobody in the ranks of the provincial police force was interested in prosecuting cases like these. Sure, assisted suicide was against the law, but everybody knew it wasn’t for much longer so why bother?
Marc did not have a strong ideological position against suicide. Like every decent person, he found it sad when someone got to the point where they thought the only answer to their problem was the one thing that wasn’t an answer at all, but he was prepared to concede that in some cases, such as being stuck with an extremely painful disease that robbed you of anything resembling pleasant life, well, who was he to say it was wrong to want to end one’s suffering?
But it still bothered him. And though she had no way of knowing there was another cop in the same boat as her, those stories bothered Rose Lieberman a great deal, too. For one thing, her mother would not stop asking her about me and whether I’d been found at the same residence as a suspected suicide case. That was getting beyond tiresome, especially because Rose knew her mother was convinced this was the case that would make her daughter famous in police circles and turbo-charge her career (her word; she actually said things like “it’d be nice to turbo-charge your career, dear,” which sounded so weird in the mouth of a 62-year-old Jewish mother) and she could no longer enjoy a cup of tea in her childhood home without being subjected to an interrogation worthy of Law and Order.
Unlike Marc, Rose was against suicide on ideological and religious grounds. She’d been raised Jewish, of course, and she was imbued with a deep sense of righteousness. She didn’t feel, like some Christians do, that life was a personal present from Jesus. But she also felt that every human had the duty to do what was in his power to do right by God by living a good and just life. Deciding to snuff one’s life when the going got tough struck her as too modern, somehow, and she didn’t like it. Besides, the Bible was full of stories of Jews pissing off Jehovah and when Jehovah got pissed at you, He really got pissed at you and tended to punish your descendants down to the ninth generation or something.
But you know, it’s a funny thing. Criminal law isn’t about this person’s morals or that one’s. It’s about what constitutes an offense against the Crown, which represents our shared values (I got that in a book; it’s a neat way to put it, right?). So yeah, it’s a bit of a lowest common denominator thing; everyone is against murder, theft, rape, fraud, etc. Not everyone is against suicide to the point of forbidding others from doing it. What is less clear is what ought to happen to those who help a person determined to commit suicide achieve that goal. It's not murder; the person administering a pill or other means of ending the life of the person who clearly wants to do such a thing is not motivated by rage or lust or evil. That person is not enjoying taking the life of another. Especially in cases of chronic pain or debilitating terminal illnesses, he or she is only interested in helping a fellow human soul escape pain, misery and indignity.
Suicides, assisted or not, happen. So does euthanasia, even though it’s illegal. That’s because the lines are often blurred in cases like that. Who’s to say it’s a crime when doctors decide there is no point continuing treatment when a patient has been in a vegetative state for years and we should just let nature take its course? Who knows for sure an elderly person with advanced dementia really wants to die anyway? Maybe they don’t want to, but since they can’t express themselves very well… And what of those who were in atrocious and chronic pain? Was there mercy in keeping them alive at all costs? What to some people counts as euthanasia can sometimes be considered merciful by others. Sometimes, it’s really hard to tell the difference. And besides, Rose thought, cops were busy enough chasing other criminals that preventing suicide ranked fairly low on their list.
She wasn’t sure there was much of a point except perhaps to satisfy her mother but nevertheless she kept digging and pursuing her lead, and spending most of the two weeks her boss had granted her trying to trip me up.
It worked. My last case, the one whose story made the local newspaper, was ultimately my undoing. Rosie went and interviewed the family and got suspicious when the old woman’s daughter explained her mother had had serious mood issues lately and that’s probably what had happened – she’d probably found a way to take too many sleeping pills or something. What was odd about this declaration was that Rosie hadn’t said a thing about possible assisted suicide and had simply wanted to talk to the family because they’d had complaints about mistreatment of residents by the staff.
“I didn’t think her death looked like a suicide, Ms. Walberg,” Rosie said, which made the other woman feel a tinge of panic. She knew she’d blundered.
“Oh! Well! I thought… because of the newspaper article… I mean, I don’t know…”
Rosie thanked her for her time and left. She hated to admit it, but unless her cop instincts had completely deserted her, she knew her mother had been right all along.