Dying with Dignity

Last year, my Dad passed way.

His last hours were hard on him, and his last request was to not be revived if he stopped breathing.

Compared to some of the horror stories I’ve heard about people’s last moments of life, it was pretty tame. But for my Dad, it might have been made easier if he had the right to die. The same could be said about my brother-in-law. I wasn’t there when he passed, and I’m sure no one, not even him, would have wanted to experience his last hours alive.

All of this came to mind recently, when a renown physician, Dr. Donald Low, made a video about his right to die with dignity. He was suffering from a brain stem tumor that was robbing him, and his family, of his life. The man who was the face of the SARS outbreak in Canada was now suffering more than many of those SARS patients. He knew what he had would kill him, and sought out a means to end his life on his terms, instead of being held hostage by something no one could fix.

But thankfully, we are a civilized society, where people have all the rights in the world, except when it comes to how they want to end their lives.

Now before you get all upset and twist my words and thoughts around, once upon a time, I wanted to end my life.

Back then, I was a teenager. I thought I was alone, that I had no one, and wondered why I was alive. All self-centered bullshit. People who want to commit suicide because their girlfriend left them, or are bummed out and feel alone are just selfish. It is also a permanent solution to a temporary problem. People who think suicide is a good thing are cowards. They don’t want to face the world, the reality, because at that moment it feels pretty terrible and unbearable. Trust me when I say, there are ALWAYS people worse off, yet they continue on.

Dying with dignity isn’t the same as suicide, but I’m sure there will be some who can’t see the difference.

Those who don’t see the difference are probably the same people who think a woman should keep the baby within her from being raped. They are the same people who want to take women’s rights to her own body away. They are the holier-than-thou types who believe life is precious and should be preserved regardless of everything. They are people who should mind their own fucking business.

Yes, life is precious! We are the ones who live our lives. We can love it or hate it, but it is our lives. We should also have the choice of when to end it.

Is a life worth living if it hurts and ruins the lives of those around you? How many people out there, with an illness that has no current or future cure, would rather end their suffering than allow their families to carry such a heavy financial, emotional, and/or mental burden? How many families have lost everything, including a loved one, because our supposedly “civilized society” valued a suffering life over a family’s closure?

Opponents of dying with dignity say it will threaten vulnerable people, putting them at risk. They have a point. But that has more to do with the family not wanting to care for their ill or incapacitated loved ones. That speaks more to the family than the person. I’ve heard too many times how someone who is at the end of their life, unable to live it as they wish, who want to die with dignity, but are denied by their supposedly loving family members. Why? Because those family members are thinking of themselves and not their ill loved one.

All of this reminds me of the pets I’ve known in my life. Some of them came to the end of their life suddenly, while others wandered off and died. For those who were suffering, we ended their suffering because it was the humane thing to do.

So why can’t we be humane to our fellow humans? Why must we let them suffer the indignities of life-altering illnesses, a loss of quality of life, the seemingly never-ending sorrow and hardship put upon our loved ones?

Deep down, I think we all know the answer to this. We can’t. We shouldn’t.

I think we, as a society, are just afraid. Afraid to let go. Afraid to admit that death is a part of life, regardless of how long we try to prolong it.

Maybe if we weren’t so afraid of death, we would see dying with dignity as a way to end life on our terms, and not some tumor or disease’s terms.

It is always sad and hard to lose people we love. But I would rather let them die on their terms, than force them to cling to a world they don’t want to be a part of, hooked up to machines that keep them alive, without actually living. I think it’s easier to say goodbye, then to have them taken away.

As for me, I plan to stick around for as long as I can. But if severe illness took away the joy and quality of my life, and that of my family, I hope something akin to dying with dignity is available.

How can we move on to the next life if we make those we love suffer in this life.


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