Reports from The Netherlands say that the first country to legalize euthanasia is taking steps to make it easier for people over age 70 to terminate their lives when they feel they’ve had enough. The phrase being used is, “consider their lives complete” — potayto, potahto. I am for this, as I am for suicide – the world is overpopulated as it is. Besides, doesn’t the word ‘euthanasia’ come from the Greek, meaning, “good death”?
Some feel it’s just “wrong”, a response I won’t even take the time to address since it has no justification whatsoever. Some think that by allowing the practice we are somehow going to provide less care to those who are elderly and sick because we will know that they have this option to just die and so why bother? I don’t think so. I think that knowing that there IS something that will finally make the pain stop for a suffering patient can only alleviate some of the pressure and worry involved. As the terminally ill or chronically pained patient, I can’t imagine how tortuous, how bleak the days must look when you are confined to a bed, attached to probes and sensors and fed bags of IV cocktails that no-one can assure you will work. Add in experimental treatments and trial protocols, and all those ‘what-if’s’ and ‘maybe’s’ could turn into the cruelest mistress; one who dangles a promise of hope but will never deliver. As the caretaker of a suffering patient, I think a similar measure of relief could be felt, knowing that your round-the-clock efforts and attention need not become the agonizing motions of just delaying the inevitable.
There is death in this world every day, it is omnipotent. Our societal constructs have framed our views such that we feel we can categorize and rank death; which is justifiable and which is not. We mourn when children die but not so much when they are born into abject poverty and despair, facing a life (however short) of ache, misery and brutal truth . We gravely assess the sick and the elderly and decide in quiet voices that they should be made ‘comfortable’ but declare no intention to ease their agony before their bodies give out. Why? Why is euthanasia such an uncomfortable topic? It is a part of the package, as constant as time, we can’t escape the end that will come to us all, yet we try mightily to bury our heads in the sand about it.
My thought about suicide in general is: It’s Your Right. If you want to take the big sleep, who am I to stop you?
“But kadinsky, what if it was your parent or sibling or spouse who wanted to kick the bucket?”
Well, I would be sad about that and I would try to understand why they wanted to do it, but it still is NOT MY DECISION to make. I might spend time thinking about how much I love that person and all the ways they influence my life and that could very well lead me to a vat of panic and sorrow at the thought of not talking to them anymore, but you see, those emotions I would be feeling have absolutely nothing to do with WHY my loved one wants to end their life. And that’s the part that I think gets glossed over. We can never fully know what another person is thinking or feeling, and if that person is in pain, be it physical or emotional, we will never actually know what that feels like for them. We can try to commiserate, we can try to empathize, but we’ll never know how each day greets them, or what kinds of signals the neurons in their brain are carrying, or the depth of the desolation in their soul.
The debate about euthanasia, whether assisted or unassisted has been going on for decades and I have yet to hear a justifiable reason for denying it. The Religious Ones denounce it “on principle”, to which I scoff heartily. I find very little concrete logic in most religions, but let’s leave that for another day. I just don’t get it, how any person can feel they have the right to interfere in someone’s suicide. That would be like someone feeling they also have the right to tell you when you can breathe or have a thought – does. not. compute. No-one questions it when you take steps to “improve” your life, whether it’s eating better, exercising more, finding love or donating your time to philanthropy – but try and bed down for the dirt nap and you better watch what you say to any and everyone or else you’ll be labeled as an unbalanced nutbag, incapable of making your own decisions. If we can trust our species to know when we want more from life, then we can also trust ourselves to know when the ride is over.