The distribution within this dichotomy, I would guess, is at best in conformity with the Principle of Pareto : 80%, those so destitute or so incapacitated and dependent, so tired of suffering the indignities of advanced old age and especially those condemned to suffer quasi-permanent pain, that they would be happy to die, to find liberation in death; 20%, those lucky enough to have had a good life and to be able to live their last days with pain assuaged, with their affairs in order, with assistance provided by professionals and with the company and comfort of loved ones. Some of the majority find that life has become so intolerable that they seek, with assistance or without, means to end it. Some even stage their suicide in a farewell fiesta with family and friends, where “Au revoir” is replaced by a final, festive “Adieu”. Others die in an accident or a coma or through a stroke or a heart attack, and fit neither of the Pareto percentages. They never knew what hit them.
I have just spent a week surrounded by geriatrics, people for whom walking even a few steps is impossible without assistance, incapable of feeding or cleaning themselves and whose pain would be permanent were it not for the medication on which they depend. Others are not even aware of what is going on around them : they have already lost their minds. All of this was a salutary reminder for me of what happens when living is replaced by survival.
I hope to die – in the distant future – happy, or at least without unbearable pain. The fact that I have no illusions about “God” or an “afterlife” is one of the reasons I will either die happy or be happy to die.