Thursday, January 10, 2008

Death By Design

A former governor of our neighboring state of Washington is taking the lead in reintroducing a "death with dignity" initiative. As of right now Oregon is the only state that has such a provision. It is seldom used but when it is it has worked quite well.

There are numerous arguments pro and con - political, theological and medical. In all the discussion, however, I'm wondering if anyone is talking to the correct demographic. The terminally ill themselves and the elderly who are in a steady state of decline. There is a point in chronological years where fate is sealed.

As we get older, I believe we have a far more realistic grasp of our own mortality. I cannot imagine there is a one of us who would not just like to go to sleep and have that be the end of it. Unfortunately that is not the norm. In a most personal and poignant talk with a friend who was dying from pancreatic cancer she said she wasn't so much afraid of actually dying as she was the process. She and others facing death that I have known have all indicated they had their "plan". Usually a stash of medications that when taken in a massive dose would do the trick. The problem with that is it might not be the end all they desire.

The subject is a tough one to sort out. In theory I think having a say in how you go is appropriate. If we know we have an option perhaps it would make getting there easier. There is a mind set though, against of the reality of it. I discovered that, at least about myself, when a friend living in Oregon took advantage of the option. She was in her early 60s. She had battled Inflammatory Breast Cancer for years. She never lost the awareness that it was a battle she was not likely to win yet she continued the fight.

Finally it became more than she could bear. Tumors began appearing in unreachable and inoperable places. There was no way to treat them. The pain became unbearable. She was technically alive but in reality she was already dead, emotionally and in a sense physically. She didn't make the choice because she felt she was a burden as much as she wanted peace, for herself and her loved ones.

As for the elderly, my Mother had a tremendous will to live, yet she had her stash. Other family members utilized mind over matter and literally willed themselves to die. I don't think anyone other than the person involved knows when it's time. I'm not sure another party, no matter how well intentioned, can make that determination.

Take family, friends and financial considerations out of the equation and look at the life. Some will fight the fight no matter the toll on themselves, but for those who feel enough is enough should it not be their choice? Many opt out. The will to live is tremendously strong. So what must bring about the the will to die?

I honestly do not know how I will handle my own demise. I should hope I face it with grace and dignity. To know I have an option of my own choosing would be a comfort. There is no guarantee that anyone else making the ultimate decision will be making the right one for me.


Word Tosser said...

I have places to go, people to see, things to do...BUT when the time comes and health is in the toilet, please at least give me the option to say fare well...
only those who walk in the same shoes know what you can endure.

patti said...

Beautifully said Dogwalker !

My daughter made the choice after fighting Inflammatory Breast Cancer for 4 years. Her mind and her body (at 41) had had it. She did ask in the end, "Mom, am I making the right decision to quit chemo?"
I find it interesting to see a post from a dog walker on this subject (being one myself).
We dog people, would not allow our 'dogs' to go through such pain and agony. Why are humans not given the dignity to make their own choices? Will we ever be able to be "humans" and act "humanely"? I don't know.