I was very excited to discover another memoir, besides mine, about a husband and wife’s journey with medical aid in dying, this one by Irvin and Marilyn Yalom. The two write alternating chapters, sharing their thoughts and feelings, until Marilyn reaches the end of her tolerance for the misery precipitated by her multiple myeloma and ends her life using the provisions of California’s End-of-Life Options Act.

While there is much to like about their book, I found myself bristling as they discussed their options, because they referred to it repeatedly as “assisted suicide.” As you’ll see in my memoir when you read it, I got quite upset with a physician who insisted on referring to medical aid in dying as either “euthanasia” or “assisted suicide.”

Calling it “euthanasia” is flat-out incorrect, at least in the US. With euthanasia, someone else (typically a medical professional) — not the dying patient — injects or administers the life-ending medication. All of the laws passed in the United States require the dying patient to self-administer the life-ending medication him- or herself. In other words, euthanasia is illegal in the United States.

My objection to calling it “assisted suicide” is a not quite as straightforward. When someone chooses suicide, they want to die. And because helping someone die by suicide is illegal, their death must be carried out in secret. It is often accomplished by violent means.

When someone chooses medical aid in dying, they do not have a choice about dying. By definition, they have an underlying condition that will end their life within six months. Medical aid in dying merely gives them some control over how much suffering they must endure.

A suicide is emotionally devastating for a family. Having lost a brother to suicide, I know this for a fact. It comes out of the blue and knocks you flat, leaving you struggling with guilt for not having seen the signs, with long nights of thinking “if only I had…” done this or said that. With a lifetime of sorrow for not getting to say goodbye.

Suggesting a relationship with suicide by giving medical aid in dying a related name just confuses the issues for everybody.

Even though it is nobody’s first choice, an intentional death using medical aid in dying can be very tender and sweet. I know this from personal experience, too.

So, let’s agree to call it “aid in dying” or “medical aid in dying.” Okay?