Following the surgeon’s rule when he cuts off a limb, I declared that life should be amputated at the point where it is alive and healthy; he who repays not his debt to nature in good time usually finds she exacts interest with a vengeance.
Montaigne suffered from colic pain. I sympathise: I have been woken with pain so severe that I thought of getting a taxi to A&E, though knowing what it is and that it goes makes it easier to bear. I suffered occasionally, so have sympathy over his chronic colic without modern painkillers. Yet he found that during his paroxysms he could communicate, and to some extent converse, beyond the sighs, sobs, tremblings and drainings of colour which Nature has placed beyond our control.
He quotes Maecenas: lop off a hand; lop off a foot and a thigh; pull out all my teeth; life itself is Good.
It makes sense to me. The thing I imagine to be unbearable becomes bearable. Slowly losing my mind to dementia or my physical powers (reading an author, I find myself imitating them) seems horrible. Yet, in that state, I am not sure I would long for death.
In those cases where people go to Switzerland to die, when they can still make the journey, they do not know how it would be actually to be reduced, as they know their illness will reduce them. Would they long for death constantly, or find some consolation?
Paradoxically, then, I would permit a doctor to assist a suicide of someone terminally ill or with a severe condition, at home or in hospital: because then the person could wait longer, and might find the unimaginable bearable. My fear of [these pains] exceeded the suffering they now cause me: that fact further increases my belief that most of the faculties of our soul disturb our life’s repose rather than serve it. They might think of death, then listen to the siren song:
You don’t have to-