Monday, 7 October 2013

My Life, My Choice.

"Death to death with dignity, It’s our own distress that we can’t abide, not that of the dying." A curious argument against euthanasia by Rosie DiManno.

Contrast this sentence "dying, with all its miseries, is a part of living; that we do not and should not get to choose the moment of our death any more than we chose the moment of our birth" with the prior paragraphs, "My own father, through half a year of hospitalization and multiple surgeries, was in unbearable agony in his final weeks of consciousness. He screamed from the pain and I screamed watching it. But when he begged to make it stop, he didn’t mean “end my life.” And it never crossed my mind to think, “Kill off this man as an act of kindness.” What I wanted to do was kill the medical men and women around him who were failing so monstrously to alleviate his pain. My father did not need assisted suicide. He needed assistance to manage end-of-life traumas that assaulted his body."

"Dying, with all its miseries, is a part of living" if we provide "assistance to manage end-of-life traumas." Drugs that eliminate pain for the dying, OK. Drugs that eliminate pain and life, not OK. Because dying is part of living. But not dying in pain, that's not part of living. Or is it? I'm so confused here.

Rosie makes of her father and uncle not asking for death a virtue, an ideal everyone should aspire to, because it's a "spiritual moment we all need." She misses that she is making a huge assumption there, and that assumption is "a desire not vocalized is a desire not felt or thought of." I would hope (assuming euthanasia is still not permitted) that if I were dying and in pain, I would not vocalize that desire; not because I did not want it, but because I did not want my family to suffer through me wailing "let me die please, for pity sake, let me die." I would internalize that part of my suffering to spare my family more of their own. But I would certainly want the release death would give me. I know myself well enough to know that for certain. Just because I won't say it, doesn't mean I don't want it.

I believe a graceful death released by drugs can be just as "spiritual", hell, even more so than a screaming descent driven by pain and suffering. Since personal anecdotes trump all logic, I watched my Oma and Grandmother die. My Oma was brain dead long before her heart stopped. There was nothing left for a long time while machines pumped in nutrients keeping a husk of a body alive. My Christian relatives (I was an atheist at this point) were all talking about how she was already with God in heaven because she was brain dead. We all realized it was pointless keeping her alive, but that's what was required. And so we all watched a brain dead body linger. Wasn't all that spiritual.

My Grandmother on the other hand, died in pain. Once she no longer could care for herself and wound up in a nursing home, she lost her will for life, started starving herself and committed a kind of slow suicide. Her death was eased through the use of pain killers, but she decided she no longer wanted to live. I don't know if she would have opted for euthanasia, I doubt she would have passed a mental competency test, dementia had quickly set in. But she still opted to die, and nothing anyone could do could stop it.

If I could choose the manner of my death, I would want something like my Grandpa. He turned on a Leafs game on the TV, sat back in his La-Z-Boy and just died a quick death while watching the game. Of all the deaths in my life, that is the one that was the most "spiritual".

But we don't get to choose the manner of our deaths. Death can be quick and clean and it can be a long lingering painful process. I could die in a car accident tomorrow and have a short, messy and painful death on the side of the road. But if I were suffering a lingering inevitable death, I would like that death hastened. I would like it to be graceful and painless. And what Rosie has not managed to do, is convince me why I cannot choose to have that. Why is she arguing for what kind of death I should have? My life, my choices. I have to live by them, and I should be able to die by them as well. So Rosie, please tell me why you and the rest of society are in charge of my death. Not your death, or that of your friends or relatives. Mine. Why am I beholden to your will?

My life, my choice. And when it comes to the manner of my death, it would do everyone well to remember that.

2 comments:

Ken Breadner said...

Well written as always.
There's another assumption Dimanno makes: that we don't get to choose the moment of our birth. Who says? How does she know? We know just as much about what life was like pre-birth as we do about what life might be like after death, i.e., zero.
]I've personally witnessed two people begging to die. Not just to die, but to be killed. I find it monstrous that we should ignore that demand, just so suffering can persist a little longer.
The thing I don't get about the anti-euthanasia folks is that they seem to believe if you legalize assisted suicide, there will be gangs of needle-toting nurses going around killing people for kicks. I don't believe this, and I don't know why they do.

Catelli said...

Exactly. Somehow they believe we would be totally incapable of putting in checks and balances to prevent murders.