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For some people, depression can be a terminal illness. American novelist David Foster Wallace was one of its victims. He died of depression in September 2008. A few years before that, he wrote something beautiful that might help a well person better understand the peculiar kind of hell that depression is. He said that a depressed person doesn’t choose this end because they find death suddenly appealing. Someone ends their life, he wrote, in ‘the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise’. The terror of falling from a great height is easier to face than the terror of the fire’s flames. Chronic pain - whether it’s emotional, or physical - can be so maddening, so crushing, that it’s easier to jump than to burn. But what if there’s a medicine that’s proven to relieve the pain of depression, and slow down the headlong plummet into suicide? What if it’s shown to be safe, affordable, and easy to administer? But what if that treatment is illegal, and the state won’t kick into gear the legislative changes that could easily bring it to a hospital near you? Is there scope, in all of this, for civil disobedience? Why should a potentially terminally ill person have to choose between illegally accessing this lifesaving medicine, or a jail term?

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