The Right To Die

https://www.yahoo.com/news/column-californias-aid-dying-law-100053133.html

The Right To Die debate is one I have strong opinions on. Ever since Brittany Maynard decided to end her life to avoid inevitable agony and suffering and watching her discuss this in many interviews, I concluded that the Right To Die law should exist for everyone, everywhere.

There are pitfalls no doubt. I can imagine nightmare scenarios where people are ‘terminated’ by bored relatives who do not wish to take care of them. So obviously safe-guards must be paramount. That said, I am open to the RTD law be expanded to include dementia patients and those with serious Chronic Illness, including long-term-depression.

That’s murder! You may say. And part of the invariable slippery-slope! But I would disagree. Unless you have been the victim of Chronic Illness and/or long-term-incurable-depression you cannot speak for others who suffer each and every day.

A few years ago I killed a kitten who was suffering. It was in agony, unsavable and its liter mates had died in excruciating agony. It was a Sunday and no pet-store nearby was open to euthanize the kitten. To spare her suffering I put her to sleep myself. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, I didn’t actually think I had it in me (to take a life) being vegetarian among other things. But the compassion for her suffering over-took the fear of harm.

The harm was her suffering any longer and that is how I see RTD laws.

Obviously we have to put into place protections against this being misused. I recognize that many deeply devout folks believe God takes us when we are ready, but I have never subscribed to that. How is suffering in agony EVER God ordained? If a God exists I do NOT believe he/she chooses people to suffer in agony for years on end. Thus for me, that argument is moot.

Without the issue of ‘taking God’s job away’ we are left with the morality of RTD laws. If I see someone suffering as horrific as it is, to consider their dying at my or their own hands, I would want to help them not suffer. If that was their true wish.

In the case of dementia patients, if they sign a waiver now they can ask not to be force-fed and kept alive, but it still means those wishes can be ignored, effectively they can exist for years as a vegetable, and do nothing about avoiding that outcome. This isn’t a pragmatic thing. Obviously our society is going to be destroyed by dementia cases as more and more develop it, but irrespective, this isn’t about convenience of death, it’s about the mercy of death.

Few of us (I know some exceptions) would wish to shit on themselves, not be able to eat, remember, function etc, and lose all dignity and awareness. Most of us would prefer to die. Giving us a way to write this out and have a representative help us achieve this, seems to me, a mercy not a convenience.

The whole subject is heart-achiningly awful and we avoid talking about it for the most part. But we need to think of this. Just recently with Covid 19 ventilation, the question of dying and life has been very pertinent and young people who never wrote living-wills have been in limbo. It is never too early to consider these things because we really don’t know.

When I put my cat of 18 years to sleep it haunted me. Briefly I went back on my belief that RTD was the best choice because I thought; If I can’t handle the images and flashbacks of the catheter being put in my cats arm, and watching him being put to sleep, if I felt that was ‘wrong’ in some way, how could I handle it if it was my dad? Or someone I loved?

Truly I think I am nearly not strong enough to cope with that day. But despite that I would still do it. TO END THE SUFFERING. It would haunt me and yes it would feel worse to me than if they died naturally just as it would have been ‘easier’ if my cat had died naturally instead of being given drugs that killed him. Watching that was horrific and it did feel ‘unnatural’ because it was but sometimes it’s the only choice, and it’s the best choice and even if it leaves us feeling horrific, we should consider it.

I don’t regret putting my cat to sleep. But I regret that it had to happen and I still get flash-backs of the last moments. If I had to do that with a human-being I know it would be the hardest thing I ever had to do. But if I loved that human being and it was THEIR WISH I would hope I had the courage and love within me to do it or be part of it or at very least, support their wish.

Having had chronic illness I know we can be ‘not in our right minds’ and so the issue of ‘how sick is too sick?’ must be considered. Depressed people for example, may be able to be cured, so are they really the right candidates for euthanasia? I don’t know the answer, I only know that if someone I knew had suffered for 20 years and wanted to die, I would find it hard to deny them that mercy. If all else had failed.

This is not what we want to think about but right now, out there, are many people who are in this VERY situation right now and have no recourse to end their suffering. I believe safe laws CAN be made that protect against abuses and I believe at this juncture in our societies evolution we need to consider those things, not to keep our sick numbers in check, but to be merciful to suffering.

The courage of Brittany Maynard has stayed with me ever since I heard about her and followed her story. Some may say that is morbid. I say it is honest. I still think of her, she affected me deeply and opened up this debate. I hope others can get over their prejudices of what they believe others should do and give people a CHOICE. Just like my best friend who doesn’t believe she would have an abortion but believes others should have the right to choose if they want to have one. Such is this debate about an individuals right to choose their outcome. Who can honestly deny that in the face of suffering?

I often think if I live to be old, I will be alone and I fear that very much. I think if it were possible I would choose to end my life simply based on not having enough money to keep going or enough reason and family left to make it worthwhile. Is that wrong? Maybe. But one day that too may exist as an ‘option’ and a mercy, to help those who would otherwise resort to suicide which can often fail and leave awful aftermaths. This is a very sad subject but it’s one many of us will one day face one way or another. I don’t want to dwell on it, but equally, I don’t want to pretend it could never happen.

I think now more than ever, we have learned, anything can happen and we need to be prepared. Taking responsibility for our lives AND our deaths is a responsible decision, and helps those who may be left in our lives, follow our true wishes. I hope I never have to find out, but I believe we should all be prepared for both the best case scenario and the worst. Contrary to popular opinion, taking ones life is probably the hardest thing a person can do, not the easiest. But as this article above states, there are worst things than dying and I would say suffering in agony meets that criteria and forces us then, to consider this subject honestly and with compassion.

Alzheimer

The solace of your heart

is not always enough

he said

standing on the pier

touching his left hand

when the wind blows, it feels like a ghost

with breath tinged by salt

your grey eyes still sad

down turned in strain

mosaic of worry, we didn’t anticipate

losing the stretch of land, leading to sea

its hypnotic pull, tearing you gradually from me

your face a shroud of former memory

the words we clung onto

destroyed by encroaching incomprehension.

Once, when we were young

lying beneath a fan in hot climate

you turned in profile

I wish I had learned more languages, you said

I smiled and said yes, in Italian, French, Russian

now I would give that day and others

for you to understand one

and from the sea mist rejoin me, as I stand alone.

The sun left a mark, never removed

on my finger where we promised

til death

though you’ve been gone, long before you breathed last

our sorrow was an empty room

with a man sketching patterns on the floor

in lue of all we were before

his name I forget.