My life was touched by a tragic and rather public suicide case that took place recently. Roy Colton and Harry Bernard, who built a fashion and retail consultancy Colton Bernard Inc and were life partners, committed suicide in their San Francisco apartment earlier this month.
Among the companies they listed as clients over the years were: Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, Fruit of the Loom, VF Corp., Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc., Ermenegildo Zegna, Sean John, Zac Posen, Ocean Pacific and Perry Ellis.
I’ve never met either of them but my wife Vivien has been a colleague of theirs for almost a year. Viv is a fashion designer and they got her a successful interview with Old Navy. A heard her shocked outcry from the next room when she heard the news.
Friends and colleagues said that Colton, 67, and Bernard, 78, may have been planning the double suicide for some time because of health issues for both and a business that was getting tougher to run. Bernard was believed to have been losing his vision after a bout with cancer earlier in the decade. Colton had worsening circulatory problems.
The pair, who had been together as an item for 43 years, were said to have read “Final Exit,” a book that details how to commit suicide written by Derek Humphry, founder of the now defunct Hemlock Society (hemlock is highly poisonous; it was used to eliminate Socrates from Greek society).
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“We’re all trying to make sense of it,” said a friend, who asked not to be identified. “None of us have closure. We may never know why or what really happened, but we believe they were planning this for a long time. They wanted to choose their way to go, and to be together when they went. They had done everything else in their lives together.”
The pair were caring to the last and even left a check for their cleaning lady in the apartment with a note saying that her services were no longer required.
They were both fans of opera, apparently; they certainly chose a dramatic exit. It’s nice they loved each other and didn’t want their relationship to deteriorate into mediocrity, due to health difficulties.
So what has this got to do with me?
I am absolutely horrified that these guys, who were not personal friends of mine, should have felt the need to do this to themselves. I can only ask: WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE MEDICAL PROFESSION THAT IT CANNOT CREATE HEALTH AND WELLNESS?
These two sad old gays were frightened; afraid of disease and afraid of death. They had bought into the crap that when you get old, you decay. They had both had bad encounters with doctors, clearly, and had emerged with impaired health. Compare Bernard’s response to cancer with that of hundreds of cases I have known personally and professionally, who DISCOVERED good health through getting cancer, learning how to beat it and emerging victorious.
Many of my patients have said they BLESS the fact that they got cancer; it woke them up before it was too late and they ended up in the grave.
I think it is shocking that lives are wasted in this way, good creative lives, because doctors cannot deliver their main commercial product: wellness. Most doctors are programmed (and I use that word advisedly) to deal only with disease; to accept mediocre health as the norm; to believe that people, once sick, need a lifetime of drug care; and they never ever take the trouble to teach their patients good health measures.
It’s not rocket science! You can go on the Internet and find completely untrained, unqualified promoters will tell you how to keep fitter and live longer. Most of it is good, workable advice, with a few crackpots thrown in. Yet doctors remain woefully ignorant of such matters and even fight them, with pseudo-science.
One might almost wonder if the training at medical school is designed simply to overturn and supplant the common sense healing that many people find naturally and instinctively.