Any "medical timebombs" someone with a degenerative conditions could use to shorten lifespan?

It’s pretty common in discussions about degenerative conditions like ALS, Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc. for people to say they would turn to assisted suicide instead of letting things take their natural course. That can be understandable, as the person may not want to spend decades in that state, as well as not want to put their family through all the care, cost and support issues. But the problem with suicide in that case is that the person needs to take that step while they are still competent. That almost certainly means the person has to make the decision well before the condition has progressed to the later stages. If someone’s mental or physical capabilities are declining, there will be a point where they won’t remember or be able to do what they need to do. If instead the person could take some steps to ensure they could limit their lifespan to a short time–like a year or two–they might be more willing wait it out.

Impractical solutions would be things like exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, strong radiation, or liver-damaging foods. Those kinds of things can limit your lifespan to just a few years. But it wouldn’t be practical in this kind of scenario since people would not want to go through the long and painful suffering process from those kinds of things.

A perfect solution could be something like a reverse pacemaker. Rather than ensuring your heart stays beating, it could stop your heart after a certain amount of time. It could even be interactive where you had to send a signal to it to keep it going. If it didn’t get the signal for some period of time, the assumption is that your condition has progressed and it’s time to activate. But I can’t imagine something like this ever being researched or approved for human use.

So I’m wondering if there’s any assisted suicide alternative which would lead to a relatively painless death in a few years rather than immediatly. But instead of causing a painless death quickly, the painless death would happen after some long period of itme.

The NY Times had an article about one such method a few years ago, but I suspect it would violate forum rules to describe it since it was decidedly illegal.

I had an AV node ablation to treat atrial fibrillation. This left me pacemaker dependent. Pacemaker battery life runs around seven to 10 years, so I have a periodic “option to renew” as it were. No physician would have done the ablation without the pacemaker installed, but when the battery goes dead my understanding is that it would require a finding of incompetence and a court order to implant a new one. At least, that was what my electrophysiologist told me when we discussed end of life implications.

I’m sure there are many questionable ways to accomplish this, but I was hoping that there will be something that is legal and medically approved. Assisted suicide is legal in some states and countries now. I would think a delayed death would be a viable option in a situation where assisted suicide would otherwise be allowed. Even if it’s not possible today, does it seem plausible that one day it could be an option?

No hints? I’m genuinely curious what the method was.

As for the subject at hand, I have seen documentaries and heard stories about people committing suicide while they were still able. I think one man had ALS, another woman had dementia. They both knew they were only a few months away from reaching a point where they weren’t able to take their own lives, so they decided to do it when they still had the ability.

However a passive device that say stops your heart after 6 months would also be a good option for them.

Moderator Action

Given that assisted suicide is a crime in Illinois where the SDMB is based, and that this is basically a “how to” thread, this is closed.