Submission Sunday – The Right To Die?

19 08 2007

It’s back baby! Today’s submission comes from the incredibly lovely Jayne d’Arcy, one of my favourite bloggers EVER. It is on a topic that is close to my own heart, and fantastically well written (which is no surprise as all her stuff is well written). If you like what see, check her out. I assure you, you won’t regret it.

The Right To Die?

Not many folks know this, but I’m very passionate about a person’s Right to Die. It’s something I’ve had to think about seriously in the last few years because I have a disease I could die from; and not very pleasantly. I have Lupus Erythmatosus, which is the body’s own immune system attacking the major organs as though they are foreign bodies. I watched, for three days, as my own father, who never wanted to be hooked up to tubes and respirators die the way he didn’t want to go. I don’t want that. I also don’t want a lingering hospital death that will wind up leaving my husband with outrageous bills.

In a few days I’ll be getting my Living Will Kit that includes a DNR – Do Not Resuscitate – order. This detailed form has a person list under what conditions resuscitation is to be allowed and under which conditions it isn’t. My conditions are simple, if I die, no resuscitation. Even if they could bring me back and I’d be given a few more years, I don’t want it. What I’m saying is, if my body decides to go, let it.

This still doesn’t guarantee my Right to Die, though. Why? Because there are so many loopholes and lawyers attached to that DNR. If you do not think of every little contingency, which often requires the aid of a lawyer versed in medical legalese, you can still wind up with a batch of tubes running through your body as your bank account dwindles away to nothing.

Do you remember the movie “Soylent Green”? I loved that movie for two reasons; it was Edward G. Robinson’s last role, and it had the most beautiful death scene I’d ever seen on the movie screen. In Soylent Green, in that film’s time period, with the explosive population, Death Centers had been created. Any person, young or old, in good health or ill, could decide on their own to walk into the Death Center, choose their death, their funeral, and they could die without having to worry that the law would come down on relatives.

Of course, the movie had a sinister twist behind these death centers (“Soylent green is people!”), but such a place has an obvious draw, for me.

I realize that it would be irresponsible to have something like that in our present. But that freedom is what I feel we deserve. Do I think everyone should be allowed to die when they wish? They should, but there should also be a system of checks and balances in place. Such as in my case: I have suicidal thoughts along with my depression. If I’d had the Right to Die when I was a teenager, I wouldn’t be writing this. In the case of someone who is depressed, before they’re allowed to die, they should be given alternative choices, counseling, etc. If, in spite of all such help, a person still wishes to die, then support them and let them do so. Counseling has helped me, but not cured me. Then, to have Lupus on top of my depression, it makes the struggle to maintain happiness and quality of life tough.

I do want to live as long as I can. I want to be as healthy as possible and still be able to greet the day with a smile. But should there come a day when my quality of life isn’t what I desire it to be, then I don’t want the government telling me I have to just grin and bear it, pay the bills and lose my home. If my body decides that it is time to go, I don’t want doctors shoving painful IVs into my veins, breathing tubes up my nose and down my throat. Let me go home, where there is the comfort of my husband, my dogs and my cats. If I’m in pain, give me morphine. It’s my body and no government has a right to tell me when I can die.

What are your thoughts about the Right to Die?


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9 responses

20 08 2007
Stephanie Vann

This is a tough question because it can be hard to separate emotion from rational decision-making. No-one wants to lose a loved one, after all. Yet sometimes I feel that that love can be best shown by being strong enough to let them go.

A few years back, my grandmother died. Before she did, her children signed a DNR order. By that point in her life, not only was she not capable of taking care of herself, but she was barely living. Most of the time she didn’t even know who or where she was. She had multiple minor strokes, along with other medical complaints, and it had just reached the stage where it seemed like keeping her going was prolonging her suffering.

In her more rational moments she knew that too, and she asked to be let go. What she was experiencing wasn’t dignified, and it certainly wasn’t living.

20 08 2007
Mr President

I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. Strokes are an awful thing, my mother had one and it absolutely broke me seeing her in that state, this usually defiantly independent woman unable to do the most basic things. If she were trapped in that state I think we’d let her go.

20 08 2007
Andy D

There is a very tough topic. I don’t think anyone wants to windup as a burden on their family. My own thoughts on the matter are complicated because I have a very young daughter whom I would like to spend as much time around as possible.

At the end of the day, I think this is one of those decisions that has to be a personal decision, and it has to be one that your family knows about ahead of time. After that, all you can do is pray that you have made the right choices.

20 08 2007
Mr President

I’m really glad that I have spoken to my mum about this, after the stroke, so we know what her wishes would be. Well, not “glad”, but it’s better for us to know than for us to be faced with the choice and speculate over what she’d want. I think that’s the bit that’s hard on the families.

20 08 2007
somegosoftly

Isn’t the thought “what if they came with up for a cure for your condition within a month” the reason that people try leaving their loved ones hooked up to machines?

20 08 2007
Mr President

You know, I think it might just be. I mean, could you imagine pulling the plug and then they do find a cure within a month?

20 08 2007
Jayne dArcy

In the case of my Lupus, that chance of there being a cure is most certainly a possibility (it’s been projected that a cure “could” be found in ten years). I am also fortunate that my symptoms are mild compared to many Lupus sufferers. However, should I wind up hooked up to machines, I do not see how a cure would be able to reverse organ damage.

I’ve made it clear to my husband and he’s agreed, if there’s no chance of full recovery with quality of life, then let me die.

20 08 2007
Mr President

I do think that’s the crucial thing, whether there’s a realistic chance of a FULL recovery with a high quality of life. Anything less is not really “life” in my book. This is why I believe a PVS is a clear situation where I would want the plug pulled, if it were me suffering. I’m the sort of person for whom my mind is what makes me, and if my mind isn’t all there, the body isn’t worth keeping around, I don’t think.

28 08 2007
Darcy Jayne

My aunt died after battling ovarian cancer for five years. She lived with her grown children for most of her last year. After making sure that they had the means if necessary, they told her that they would care for her always, even to the point of helping her go if that’s what she wanted.

As it turned out, she went peacefully in her sleep, with enough warning for each of her children and most of her grandchildren to spend some time with her near the end. I’m certain that knowing she didn’t have to wait for the carriage, but could call it when she was ready, made her last days easier.

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