Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Death with Dignity: Who Should Have the Right to Determine When You Die?

Some call it “suicide by doctor”. Some term it “euthanasia”.

This column has been about relationships from the beginning, but not too often do I deal with relationships with family, friends, and oneself.

Making the decision to die on one’s own terms and in a time one determines is anathema to many.

Sometimes the objection is on religious grounds: no one but God should determine your entry or exit from this world.

Sometimes there is this vague sense of unease: it’s just not right to kill yourself, no matter what the label du jour is.

Others are concerned that the “do no harm” and pledge not to kill that doctors subscribe to will blur the lines of what a physician is. Once they cross that line, where might the brakes be on this train?

But for the people in favor of what the Hemlock Society (and other groups and individuals) has been promoting and supporting for decades, the right-to-die, this is an acceptable risk. The Hemlock Society makes sure folks have access to information about the right-to-die and they try to change legislation to permit physician-assisted suicide.

Currently, there are five states where one can establish a six-month residency and let a physician assist your passing, if you meet the criteria for terminal illness. Washington, Oregon, and Vermont passed laws allowing death with dignity. In two states, Montana and New Mexico, the court ruled the state cannot interfere.

Of course, the term “suicide” has so much baggage that even supporters like I seek alternative wording. Having a physician supply medications to ease your transition is NOT the same as the association the word “suicide” has. This decision doesn’t come from a place of hurt and depression like suicide. Rather, being able to determine the time of death, and planning for it, puts one in control of emotions and actions.

I prefer the term Death with Dignity. After all, if I am terminal with some disease and two, seventy, a hundred doctors (pick your number) agree that I am terminal, why don’t I have the right to go on my own terms? Leave this life while I still have energy and my good spirits?

In the circumstance of no hope of recovery, why should I drain my family emotionally and financially? Why can’t I choose to spend quality of life time with them instead of them sitting watch me waste away in pain? What purpose does that serve? Isn’t it a selfish thing to do?

I love hospice service. When my mother-in-law had reached the end of her life, following her specifications for no heroic measures, no artificial life extension, hospice provided her with medications so she was comfortable. She had water swabs we used regularly, but no food. Because hospice could not have a physician-assisted passing, they provided no nourishment but substantial quantities of drugs. In essence, she starved to death. And that’s better? She was going to die, so why not ease the way for her? Now, that is not what she wanted. She was a tough lady who hung on for a while. But that should have been an option for her to reject.

My choice would be different than hers. My ideal death would be at a time of my choosing, without family or friends indicted for “killing” me, having tidied up the pieces of my life that needed it, time with each child and my husband separately, and then slip into another part of the cycle of life. Why does my dog deserve that more than I?

I’m glad New Mexico is my neighbor. I thought I was going to have to travel to Washington or Oregon for death with dignity. It’s great to know that Albuquerque is so close by.

And you? What end of life would you choose, if you could?

No comments:

Post a Comment