So far everything on this shiny new blog has been pretty tame. Some would probably even say lame.
Now for some heavy stuff…
It’s not like I sit around thinking about things like assisted suicide on a regular basis. But every so often some event, some moment will occur that brings it to the forefront.
The most recent moment was Jeff Moriarty’s talk at Ignite Phoenix After Hours (IPAH). Typically IPAH talks are around things like sex. Or relationships. Or sex. Jeff however gave a passionate heart-felt talk on assisted suicide, physician-assisted death, “death with dignity”, whatever term you care to use.
And his talk got me to thinking again.
I’ve never understood why we expect the terminally ill to suffer needlessly. Oh, we have the pharmacology to keep pain at bay, though in some situations such as end-stage cancer the only way to eliminate the pain it to pump opiates into someone at a rate that practically puts them in a coma. Alzheimer’s Disease is utterly horrific, probably more so on the friends and families of those stricken than the patients themselves. They say Alzheimer’s causes no pain, but how do you measure the pain of losing your mind — to the point where you don’t even recognize your own children?
My dog has cancer. Right now best as we can tell she is cancer free. But there is a 70% chance the tumor she had that was recently removed will come back. Should it get to a point where Trudy the Wonder Dog is uncomfortable, or can’t enjoy quality of life she’ll be swiftly and painlessly euthanized. It will be sad and painful for us, but clearly it is the humane thing to do for her.
But should, God forbid, someone in my family be stricken with a terminal illness, they won’t have that option. Instead, they will waste away, in pain or a drug-induced fog so thick they won’t know where they are.
We put animals to sleep when they are suffering and nothing more can be done. But we let sentient human beings that we love suffer needlessly when they are in the same position.
Does that make any sense?
Right now, physician assisted suicide is specifically authorized in just two states — Oregon and Washington. In December 2009 the Montana Supreme Court ruled that physician- assisted suicide was not illegal, but from what I can gather that ruling is being appealed and the Montana legislature has been locked in debate whether or not to craft a law specifically allowing it as their neighbors to the west do.
Something needs to change
I’m not saying that laws need to be created to allow physicians to go crazy with prescription pads, writing scripts for lethal doses of medicine to anyone that asks for it. That would be insane. But for the terminally ill, why shouldn’t they have the choice, and be able to get some help, to die with grace and dignity on their own terms?
The Oregon Death with Dignity Act strictly prohibits “lethal injection, mercy killing, or active euthanasia.” But it allows mentally competent adults who declare their intentions in writing, and have been diagnosed as terminally ill, to take a doctor-prescribed lethal drug themselves, orally, after a waiting period.
To me, this makes sense.
Yeah, it’s a touchy subject, and subject to much moral and ethical debate. But those debates need to happen. Suicide in our society is a taboo subject. No one likes to think about it. In a very few special circumstances though — such as with the terminally ill — I happen to think it is well past time that this be opened up for real debate, and action.
Want to watch a documentary that will make you think, regardless of your position on assisted death? Watch Choosing to Die (available on Vime0). British author Terry Pratchett, diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, follows a couple of UK citizens as they travel to Switzerland’s Dignitas, a Swiss organizations for assisted death. It’s a compelling look at several aspects of this topic.