Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The word suicide conjures up terrible images. It can be considered worse than a natural death by some people, and even worse than an unnatural death.
Add in the term 'physician-assisted' and you have a cocktail to make people shudder. But should it be legal?
I would have to say yes.
The whole basis of physician-assisted suicide is to allow people who have been given less than six months to live the opportunity to end their life by their own means.
Sounds terrible, doesn't it? But so does having less than six months to live.
The dying person must be of 'sound mind' before they would be able to get the medication to make the decision.
I am for the right to let people choose for themselves. I think people can make the decision if they want to live or die. Should the medical community be involved with this? Well yes, the lethal oral prescription medication shouldn't be over-the-counter. Terminally ill patients would need a doctor to prescribe it.
Anyone can kill themselves. The most difficult part must be the actual decision to do it. How hard is it to slit your wrists? How about throwing yourself in front of a train or jumping off a cliff. But these means are terrible.
Any loss of life is terrible and when the life is taken by the one holding it, it's even worse. But it's wrong to make people live out their lives to the last minute if they are suffering.
This might not be a very good example, but I noticed this with my cat.
Before people scoff and say, "It's just a cat," back off, I know it's not the best example.
Anyway, my cat's liver was failing him. He was in pain and discomfort but I tried to keep him alive as long as I could. My wife and I would give him fluids twice a day by putting a needle under his skin and letting fluid drain into him. This worked and kept him eating and alive, but I could tell he was still miserable.
I look back now and feel I was being selfish by not putting him to sleep at the vets. It bothers me when I think about it.
Why can't we offer the same sympathy to people who are dying and in pain, if they want it? We wouldn't think twice about not allowing an animal to suffer, but we allow humans to experience great suffering because suicide is perceived as something bad.
I think that's wrong.
I can't imagine what it must be like for some people who are terminally ill and in pain. Sure, we have pills that will wipe away that pain, but what kind of quality of life are they going to have after that? Going through life in a drug stupor isn't quality living. Being bedridden isn't quality living. Throwing up five times a day isn't quality living.
In some cases, allowing the patient to take a pill and fall asleep forever is the most humane thing to do. This is especially true when the patient wants it to end.
I really don't think the suicide rate will rise if physician-assisted suicide is passed in Washington. Some people will take advantage of it, some won't. The ones who do will probably be the ones who would have even without a doctor's assistance.
I don't think I would ever do it, but I can't really say that, having never experienced real pain for extended periods of time.
But, just because I or someone else wouldn't do it, doesn't mean other people shouldn't have the opportunity, or right, to end their own suffering on their own terms. Physician-assisted suicide would allow that.