Assisted suicide: “What Olympus reveals to us about ourselves”

GRANDSTAND – The 23-year-old YouTuber has announced her intention to use active assistance in dying in Belgium. For the psychoanalyst Christian Flavigny, it is not a question of “a claim to be taken literally”.

Christian Flavigny is a child psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, associate researcher at the Thomas More Institute. His latest published work is Helping “transgender” children – Against the Americanization of care, Ed. P. Téqui, 2021


The YouTuber Olympus holds up to us a mirror of what the human bond is in what we call, not without pretention, ourmodernitysocial: indifference to others under cover of the freedom left to everyone to be helped to eliminate themselves, now established as a right making this assistance in execution the mark of the respect due to others. Such is assisted suicide, whose title is a contradiction in terms.

The intention of suicide is never among young people a desire to die; adolescence, the age at which suicide is the leading cause of death, shows this: it reflects the disarray of a young person who feels unable to respond to what he considers expected of him, who feels unable to to honor the symbolic debt imprinted on him since what he received as a child, a debt which in everyone animates the desire to live and grow. This disarray can reach such an intensity that the young person asks for a new deal in a way, like throwing down the cards he has received to demand a new game that he feels better able to accomplish, turning against himself the feeling that he is not up to the task; it is not a question of dying as an end, moreover vague at this age and basically at any age, but of dying as a passage to be reborn to a life which seems lighter to assume.

The purpose of the assistance then justified, whether it comes from the entourage or from the psychiatrist, is to ensure this relief; because if the young person bends, it is because ideals make him sink, from which it is possible to help him to free himself. To claim to assist him by triggering his death on the grounds that it will soothe his suffering is not to grasp the desperate hand he is extending to us; such as the bitter consolation that the sea lavishes in Paul Verlaine’s poem, during the shipwreck where it engulfs the sailors: “ you without hope, die without suffering soothing them while she drowns them.

The radical punishment of which it would make us accomplices via the legalization of assisted dying, is not a demand to be taken literally, it is a provocation in the strong sense of the term, the effect of pain and no doubt with anger

The indifference to others in our modern societies can also be seen in the use of television, presenting it as a curiosity, which corresponds to the intimate disarray of psychoaffective life; the program where Olympe testifies to feeling her word dictated by “alter”, in other words thoughts that she does not feel to be hers, recalls the program of Daily which had presented an 8-year-old boy appearing, in front of his disconcerted mother, in the guise of a young girl with curly hair (TMC, 2020): the spectacular character conceals the poignant intensity of a personal ordeal, as if the exhibition was in our societies of the spectacle the only way to make known this one.

But this exhibition is an interpellation. The “help me die soon“that the young woman addresses to us via the television program, is to be heard”help me i can’t live“, and more : “help me, I can’t give to others as much as I would like to feel like a good person“, concern that shines through in the pathetic words of the young woman, which underlines the weight of an overly demanding ideal that overwhelms her, from which she could be relieved, without in any way justifying the death sentence she is inflicting on herself. The emotion and the tears that permeate his speech proclaim his distress; the radical punishment of which she would make us accomplices via the legalization of assisted dying, is not a claim to be taken literally, it is a provocation in the strong sense of the term, the effect of pain and no doubt of anger. It is the question posed to know if we validate this option; but supporting her would not translate our empathy for her suffering but the fact of losing interest in it and leaving the young woman to fend for herself: individualistic humanism, if we can risk this oxymoron.

In the testimony of the “transgender child”, this boy who claims to be a girl, as in that of the young woman with suicidal thoughts, who says she is animated by “other” thoughts, there is evidence of the insistence in each us of the otherness at the base of our individuality: influence sometimes invasive, embarrassing the personal blooming. Is the solution to stifle the embarrassment, which would justify the “medico-surgical transition” or the “assisted suicide”? Or should we promote the balance between two facets that translate the debate between what remains in all of us on the one hand of otherness committed from the first links with parents and relatives, and the fact of defining oneself in emancipating oneself from this influence, what is the principle from which emanates individuality? What does the fact that our current societies decide, so to speak, in favor of the “solution” which attacks the body convey: is it, on the pretext of respecting strictly speaking the word, would it be that of a child or a young person, avoid hearing the appropriation of their lives with which they remain in debate? Is it the claim of our “progressive” societies to dominate and govern what haunts the human condition: sexuality and death?

Assisted suicide: “What Olympus reveals to us about ourselves”