DYING WITH DIGNITY

SAS_ChurchLet’s face it. We’re all going to die one day. You. Me. Our parents. Our children. Friends. Neighbours. Co-workers. Even our pets. It makes me wonder why we have so much trouble accepting the inevitable, especially in artificially prolonging life when a person’s entire quality of life is gone, never to return, and they spend their final days in suffering – not just pain and discomfort, but in a total loss of their dignity as a human being.

During my time as a coroner I heard from a lot of family members about the agony that not only the deceased suffered in their final days, but what the ones left behind endured. Inevitably that led to discussions about the ethics of euthanasia.

Death2Euthanasia was also a topic behind closed doors within my medical and legal colleagues. Without question, there are cases of assisted suicide that are overlooked by the authorities and I’m sure that some of the ‘natural’ deaths in seniors care homes are ‘helped along’ by a generous dose of pain killer.

Several years ago I watch as my ninety-five year old mother wasted away in the final months of her long and fulfilled life. It was absolute agony, not so much for Mum, because she was medicated to the point of being mostly unconscious, but for myself and other family members. To see such a vibrant person being ‘punished’ by dragging out her journey to everlasting peace and tranquility was heartbreaking.

I did a lot of soul searching during that time.

Death7I’ll admit that it was tempting to intervene and put Mum out of her misery. I know that’s what she wanted, because we’d had that discussion, but the legal ramifications were far too serious to consider bringing that monster into the family. So, we just bided our time while she literally wasted away in a nursing home bed until her life and dignity exhausted.

I wouldn’t treat my dog that way. When his quality of life is gone, I’ll take him into the vet and have him put to sleep. After all, it’s the humane thing to do.

So why are we so cruel to our fellow humans?

Death4I say the problem lies right in the hands of our legal system. Not our ‘justice’ system. Our ‘legal’ system.

There’s a fine line between the moral and practical approach to death. It’s the moral tail that wags the practical dog in the debate over euthanasia and it needs to be put to rest.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating involuntary euthanasia or playing God against a terminally ill person’s wishes. That’s a ‘slippery slope’ for society to slide down. I’m talking about the legalization of medically assisted suicide, or mercy killing, when the patient – in sound mind – has clearly expressed their desire to be euthanized when their quality of life has expired.

Death6We’ve been using Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders for years and our system totally accepts the moral and legal reasoning behind them. We also ‘pull-the plug’ on people who are brain dead but their body still functions.

What I want for myself, and I’ve told my next-of-kin this, is a Put Me Out Of Misery (PMOOM) order. When my quality of life is gone, the last thing I want to do is unnecessarily delay the inevitable. Out of sheer respect for my dignity, somebody please give me a push over the edge.

I believe it’s the humane thing to do, but that’s just my opinion.

What do you think? I’m dying to hear your words.

6 thoughts on “DYING WITH DIGNITY

  1. john

    our much loved dog got cancer and the last week was horrible seeing her not eating and so poorly , she was put down , and we all think it was right and at lest she not in pain any more . now I have cancer and been in and out of hospital for two years , got to suffer till the end .

    Reply
  2. Sue Coletta

    I totally agree with you, Garry. About ten years ago I was a part of a group of family members who huddled around a hospital bed for weeks watching our loved one slowly wither away. If someone had suggested a quick shot at that point I have no doubt the patient– my husband’s favorite aunt– would have jumped at it. She suffered so unnecessarily. In the end, none of us were sure if the doctor hadn’t “help” her along. A quick nod of the head and a slight grin was all we got, for obvious legal reasons. If I was a betting (wo)man I’d say he gave her something.

    Very interesting subject indeed!

    Reply
    1. Garry Rodgers Post author

      Thanks for your thoughts, Sue! I’m sure that there’s a lot of ‘help’ going on out there. When I moved from the police world and first started in the coroner service, I got into a discussion with my supervisor about just how far we get into investigating deaths in nursing homes. I was told in no uncertain terms not to open up a can of worms – the first thing we did was contact the family physician and determine if they were prepared to sign the death certificate as being a natural cause. (Natural deaths are not in the coroner’s jurisdiction – only accidental, suicide, homicide, and undetermined causes are investigated and signed-off by the coroner.) Invariably, the family doc readily agreed to sign without an autopsy, toxicology, or any sort of investigation. Looking back, it’s funny how many times the doc had just visited the patient prior to death. Hmmm…

      Reply
      1. Sue Coletta

        It’s definitely a topic to explore/discuss further. That’s why I’m posting it on Reddit. Well, I was going to, but you don’t have a button! Add one– your blog will explode with visitors. I’ll check back.

        Reply

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