Planning Your Assisted-Suicide

I live in Oregon so I can legally request the

Death With Dignity option

at the time I deem appropriate if I choose, so I’ve thought about what medical treatments and interventions I would or wouldn’t accept and how I would want to die if this or that happens to my body and/or mind, whenever it happens.

I’ve been involved with this issue long enough (see article)– I was a hospice volunteer off and on for over 20 years, I’ve sat with numerous people and their families as they lay dying, I’ve been a caregiver and a counselor to the dying, I had a near-death experience 40 years ago (see article)– and I understand more about death and dying than most people who try not to think about it at all.

Most folks have opinions related to self-preservation, love of family and their life, or religious dogma, but a narrow perspective of the whole issue. So I’m just going to think out loud here to give others some food for thought… with the caveat that you continue this conversation with someone immediately after reading this and get to work on your own Advanced Healthcare Directive.

I’m 70+ so there’s that. Having seen first hand and studied what happens to the body and the mind of the majority of people as they age, I acknowledge my personal limits. Knowing my body and what I’ve done to it and for it, I’m hoping to live healthy to at least 75 but no longer than 80. Closer to 75, more likely. Beyond 80 things seem to fall apart more rapidly and sitting in front of a TV all day in an assisted living home with a bunch of other half comatose people is not something I could take for more than a minute. Lying in a  hospital bed staring at the ceiling with no hope of ever getting up again would be intolerable.

Now I know there are some 90-year olds still driving and playing golf or milking the cows and tilling the fields,  but that’s not me. There are also some 60-year old, overweight couch potatoes, who can hardly walk from the couch to the refrigerator any more.They’re on multiple medications with multiple side effects and are mostly miserable most of the time.

One’s past habits and lifestyle have a lot to say about how fit we will be in our old age, and we should be aware of our genes and our base lines so we can keep track of our physical health as we age. If you’re 40 and have diabetes, you’re not likely to make it to experience much of old age. If you haven’t cared about your health during your life, you’re not likely to have a healthy older age.

Of course one can always get hit by a bus or have a heart attack or get shot by a wacko on his own suicide mission. Personally if I’m too far gone and it would take too much or too long to restore me to a reasonable state of health, I would opt not to be resuscitated in the first place.

Certainly cracking open my rib cage, cutting off any limbs or hooking my body up to artificial life support are completely off the table. I want not to live without full use of my limbs or cognitive processes so don’t even think about it. If my heart stops, let me be. If I come back on my own, this time, I’ll talk about it. If my mind starts to disappear, you can bet I’ll be working on my suicide plan, physician-assisted or not, before I forget who my loved ones are.

So you have this pain or these symptoms you’ve been ignoring but it’s suddenly gotten worse and you can’t do things you used to be able to do so you finally go to a doctor and they run a bunch of tests and tell you that you have cancer of the blahblah and they’re going to have to take out your blahblah and then you’ll have to have radiation and chemo and then maybe you’ll have a few good months left but every case is different and they just know you’re going to beat this so here, sign these papers and let’s get started.

And you go… WTF? Because you never thought about it before, never allowed yourself to think it might happen to you or someone you love. You didn’t hear a word the doctor said after “cancer.” Your mind went blank and you felt like the elevator just dropped 20 floors in a second.

You are now spinning out of control but your doctor has moved on to the next patient to give him or her the same devastating news and you’re left to gather your wits and find your way home to tell your loved ones… but the only word that comes out of your mouth is… cancer or brain tumor or kidney failure or multiple sclerosis. Suddenly you’re a dead man walking.

You’ve never thought about it before? Never asked anyone what their thoughts are? Never asked someone who is dying what they think about? Would you want everything done? Do you even know what “everything” means? How much of you abilities are you wiling to do without just to see the next football game on TV?

You suddenly black out and wake up hooked up to machines in an ICU, paralyzed so you don’t try to rip out the tubes and  lines, surrounded by strangers with masks on looking down at you and one of them says sprightly, “Welcome back, Mr. Jones. We thought we’d lost you.”

And you’re thinking, “OMG, I was having this wonderful out-of-body experience. I was surrounded by loving beings of light and you brought me back to this? I’ll kill everyone of you!” But you can’t speak, you can’t move. Those people out there think you’re not aware, but you’re aware of everything, you just can’t do anything about it.

You’re wishing you had written that Advanced Healthcare Directive indicating you wanted no extraordinary measures to keep you alive if you were in this unfathomable condition. Unless you have a few lucid moments to state otherwise or can at least blink your eyes if asked, it is now beyond your control. You could end up a living, breathing vegetable for years.

If one is born disabled or becomes disabled through accident or illness, there is a whole added dimension to thoughts about one’s death. Depending on how dependent you are on others for care and whether you are able to communicate or are even aware of what’s happening, decisions are difficult, riddled with guilt and fear, no one ever sure they did the right thing. If you could convey your wishes, what would they be?

Assisted dying is not an option under the current laws unless you can self-administer. It has been tested by brave people with ALS and MS in the U.S. and foreign courts but euthanasia, which allows a physician to administer a life-ending drug to a person who is unable to self-administer because of their disability, is considered murder and many people fear that is opening assisted dying up to a slippery slope that could lead to the wholesale killing of the most vulnerable among us– the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, the poor.

Instead of showing compassion for those who are wrestling with these very personal decisions, some groups of religious protestors and bio-ethicists use fear and scare tactics, dredging up images from the Holocaust and other genocides, or hellfire and eternal damnation, to keep everyone from having control of how they end their own lives. These moral absolutists feel they are right and everyone else is wrong, and they have to protect us wayward relativists from ourselves as if we had no values. We do, just not the same as theirs.

I value human life as part of our eternal spiritual journey, I just don’t believe in the sanctity of life as the right to lifers do. Theirs is a religion based on fear and a judgmental god. I believe our Free Will gives us the right to determine when the quality of our life has fallen below our level of tolerance; that we should have the right to decide when it’s our time to die, and be able to ask our doctor to help us by giving us a prescription that will allow us to chose the time and circumstances of our own death.

Physicians, pharmacists and hospitals who provide a public benefit to a diverse society cannot impose their personal religious beliefs or moral values on patients at the end of their lives any more than at any other time in their lives. They work for us, we hire them… they are not the boss of us!

The alternative, if one is able, may be to blow your brains out or jump off a bridge or throw yourself in front of a train. What a mess! How much more peaceful and spiritual to take a pill and just go to sleep. Would you rather your family watch you suffer or allow you to die in peace? How much better for your family to be by your side instead of you having to go off like an animal to die alone.

A good way to count oneself down is to make a list of 100 things you do every day and cross items off as you can’t do them anymore until you’re down to the last 5 or 10 or 20, wherever you draw the line, then call your doctor for your prescription, pick it up when you are ready, gather your family together to say your goodbyes and have a final toast to your good death and peaceful journey home.

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National Healthcare Decisions Day – April 16th

Planning a vacation is fun.

Planning a wedding is exciting.

Planning a meeting is important.

Planning for your future healthcare is critical.

Now that your income taxes are behind you,

April 16th

National Healthcare Decisions Day

is a reminder to revisit your Advance Healthcare Directive or finally fill one out to assure that your wishes for end of life care are carried out when needed. This is not just for seniors or people with a terminal illness, anyone over 18 needs to have an Advance Healthcare Directive in place.

On this day a coalition of more than 100 national organizations mobilizes to talk to as many Americans as possible about getting their future healthcare wishes written down, and expressing those wishes to their loved ones and healthcare providers. That means making sure you have an advance directive, which includes a living will, describing treatment you want and don’t want, and a durable power of attorney designating the person who will speak for you until you are unable to do so for yourself.

As much as we would like to hope all will go according to plan, the circumstances of our death may be completely out of our control. An unexpected rupture, a tragic accident, a sudden heart attack, a chunk of food gets stuck in our windpipe. We are suddenly at the mercy of other people, often strangers, making life or death decisions about us. If you have talked to your doctor, and filled out and registered a POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment), it will help avoid unwanted invasive, often futile, life-saving procedures in an ambulance or emergency room.

If you haven’t shared your wishes about resuscitation, hydration, blood transfusions, antibiotics, pacemakers, stents, amputations, being kept alive on a ventilator, your family members are going to be asked to make those decisions without knowing what you really want. If you wake up, you may not like their choices. If talking about death makes you uncomfortable, search out a Death Cafe. Have tea or a pot luck dinner, and conversation about death and dying.

Whether you want everything done or nothing done or what your limits are, if you don’t designate a healthcare representative and discuss your wishes, and fill out an advance directive ahead of any life-threatening event, you have no control over what will be done to your body while you are unconscious or what your family will be going through trying to make decisions about what you would have wanted or not wanted.

Medical personnel are well-intentioned, but well-trained to do certain medical protocols by rote. They’re not going to stop to ask whether you want to be resuscitated or kept on a ventilator for an indeterminate amount of time. If your family doesn’t know to speak up on your behalf and make your wishes known, you become a medical procedure.

Studies have shown that families who face these tragedies after having had “The Conversation” with their loved one are less traumatized after losing their loved one than those who never had any discussions about what their loved one wanted in a life or death situation.

For your sake and for your family’s peace of mind, make this April 16th the day you sit down with your family and talk about future healthcare decisions for all members.

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How do you make end of life healthcare decisions?

Of a certain age…

by Diane Goble, Columnist, The Nugget News, April 16, 2014

My best friend just had her second mastectomy last week. In the last two years, she’s had her gall bladder removed, a lumpectomy, a mastectomy and now this one. She says the good news is that she’s lost 20 pounds and can see her toes again!

She has several messages on her cell phone asking her to call another oncologist for follow- up. She’s procrastinating. “It’s not in my lymph nodes so I’m not going for radiation or chemo,” she says. “I’m done with the medical stuff.” She insists she’s going to eat better, exercise more, take up yoga and meditation, and try to be as healthy as possible until she dies. She’s contemplating an artistic tattoo to obscure her now breastless chest.

That’s the rub. You can go through all the treatments and deal with all the side effects of them– sick as a dog and wanting to die most of the time. You maybe get a few good months and then it comes back with a vengeance and you die anyway. The outcome is the same. The difference is the quality of life in between.

This doesn’t have any thing to do with age. My friend is in her 60s, five years younger than I am. It can happen to us at any time in our lives. We have jobs to get to, children to raise, relationships to deal with, bills to pay, retirement to plan for, and then suddenly we have to make these decisions about what we want and don’t want because we are diagnosed with a serious illness or have a life-threatening accident.

I had a stage IV melanoma a while back. Had the Moh’s surgery, no problems, no lymph node involvement. That follow-up oncologist wanted to do radiation and possibly chemo, but I said no thanks. I’ve been in remission for almost 8 years. That doesn’t mean it won’t still come back. One or two spots I’d probably have them removed but that with a vengeance thing not so much. I’ll start planning for the end of my days.

I don’t have a problem with dying. I did that once. Drowned. It was a fantastic journey home and back again. I expect it to be the same the next time, only without the back again, so I look forward to moving on to what comes next… because I know there’s a next. Of course I’ll miss my family and friends but I know I’ll see them again soon.

My concern is more about what will happen to me while I’m still in a body. I refuse to put up with Alzheimer’s. Any inkling of that and I’m making my going away party plans before I forget how! I’ve filled out my Advance Healthcare Directive and appointed a non-family member as my healthcare representative so my children don’t have to make any decisions. They don’t want to talk about it so I sent them their copies and included a video of me telling them my decisions about what I want and don’t want. I’d opt for a heart attack over a prolonged illness, but if it were an illness, I’d be working on the paperwork process for physician aid-in-dying the moment I got that 6 months to live diagnosis then I’d keep working my Bucket List!

So how does one decide what they want at the end of their life? It has to be based on one’s own beliefs and values, not forced on you by someone else’s biases. Talk to your family, your doctor, your spiritual advisor, search your soul, search the Internet… meditate, pray, talk to God or a tree. Educate yourself about the process. There are some good videos out these days about death and dying– “Consider the Conversation,” “How to Die in Oregon,” “The Day I Died: The mind, the brain, and near-death experiences.” The more you know, the better decisions you can make about your own healthcare at the end of life.

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day… think about it!

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What if death is… ?

Death is always a loss no matter how you look at it and it doesn’t mean there won’t be grief, but what if…?

  • What if dying is actually a wonderful, exciting experience as near-death experiencers have described?
  • What if dying is an opportunity to celebrate the end of a wonderful human experience and a joyous return to our spiritual home and family?
  • What if death is our graduation from the University of Life on Earth and we go on to have other amazing experiences exploring consciousness at higher levels, being co-creators with God?
  • What if all those who have transitioned before us are there to greet us, and those we leave behind join us again almost before we know it because there is no time?
  • What if we exist in a multi-dimensional universe in many different forms in many different frequencies of endless possibilities?
  • What if consciousness doesn’t arise from matter, but creates matter?
  • What if our True Nature is continuous and our human lifetimes are breathing spaces along our eternal journey?
  • What if our human lives are not completely predestined and we have the free will to choose to break the cycle of death and rebirth, and move into higher consciousness and higher dimensions?
  • What if we can accelerate our progress by practicing the art of conscious dying during each human lifetime we experience?
  • What if we make the spiritual connection in a human lifetime and go directly into the Light at transition, thereby propelling our soul into the next dimension?

How wonderful would that be?

• • • • • • •

Excepted from new book by Diane Goble

Stepping into the Light

Reframing death from a Near-Death Experience perspective

(due out in June 2014)

Vote YES for Death with Dignity laws

Please watch this video and vote with your heart for what you know is the right thing to do…

Vote YES for physician-assisted dying when it comes up in your state before another family has to suffer like this family did, still is, will always. For Nattie’s sake, allow all of us the right to make the choice depending on our own circumstances.

 

Reframing Death for the Death with Dignity debate

As I listened to the public testimony at the hearing before the Connecticut legislature last week on HB5326 that would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to the terminally ill, what stuck me about the people testifying, whether for or against, was an underlying fear of death.

Some who are opposed to physician-assisted dying cover up their fears by proclaiming that human life, no matter what condition one’s body is in nor how ready to let go one is, is worth living and should not be ended prematurely.

Some religious speakers insist their God decides when it is time for us to die and we have no right to play God or that this is an act of suicide which is a sin– conjuring up images of burning in hell for eternity as punishment.

Many of those in favor of a law with similar safeguards and restrictions to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, talked about frightening experiences and fearful anxiety associated with the deaths of their loved ones that they felt could have been reduced if there were such a law and their person could have died peacefully at home in their own bed surrounded by family.

That’s all people are asking is to be able to die in peace, on their own terms, not filled with fear, not strapped to machines surrounded by strangers, not in agonizing pain for days or weeks before the body shuts down… and if the circumstances of their deaths are such that a medication would ease their pain and allow them to continue their dying process in peace if that is their expressed desire, then how can we have a law that denies it because some other people who aren’t yet dying are afraid of death, afraid of a slippery slope, afraid of genocide, afraid of impending doom?

Then there’s the fear of being charged with murder if out of compassion for a person’s suffering a loved one helps a person by administering a lethal medication. Families are forced to live with the fear of watching their loved one dying in agony knowing there is nothing they can do to relieve their suffering. The dying person suffers greater fear their loved one will go to jail if they help hasten their death.

Physician’s fall back on an oath written 2,000 years ago when physicians were thought to be gods because of their healing abilities and everyone thought the world was flat. Get over yourselves! They don’t consider that healing the soul and a peaceful death are what we need most of all at the end of our lives, not more false hopes and futile treatments that cause us more pain and suffering with no time to say goodbye to our loved ones.

Yes, palliative care is crucial and will be able to help most people achieve a peaceful death through pain management, but it’s not yet available everywhere, especially in rural areas, and it doesn’t work in all cases so it’s not a panacea. Hospice is not even available everywhere and with budget cuts they are often understaffed and out-of-reach.

The way the law is written almost no one can qualify to begin with. Only if you have a disease, like cancer, either for which there are no more treatments or patient has stopped treatments allowing nature to take its course, can a doctor with any degree of certainty predict a person has 6 months or less to live… which is why many people outlive a 6-month prognosis. Many people get better under hospice care because they are so well cared for and are no longer being subjected to the side-effects from  treatments meant to keep them alive with no quality of life.

And if you say you want to die, according to psychiatry, you are automatically diagnosed with depression; therefore you don’t qualify for the medication. So we’re spending a lot of time and money debating an issue that affects a relatively small number of people as if we were fighting against a trend toward genocide, all because we are afraid that death is the worst thing that could happen to us.

Most people wait too long to request hospice where they can also receive pain management so public education about palliative care is an important factor in end of life care. People are afraid hospice means the end, but it really means time to spend with your family, reconcile your life, get your paperwork in order, wrap up the details of your life, write out your last wishes, complete your bucket list, reconcile your life and say your goodbyes.

Yes, even to have a “suicide party” as one lawyer testified about with much disdain. It seems hearing what your loved ones have to say about you and saying your goodbyes before drinking a last toast is less acceptable, more fearful, than after the fact in an impeccable funeral parlor with everybody crying instead of laughter and hugs around the bedside at home.

Most people die after being rushed into the ER, resuscitated, and hooked up to machines in an ICU for a number of days, usually scared shitless and completely unconscious of the agony their family is going through because they didn’t let their last wishes be known. The last memory the family is likely to have of their loved one is of them dying in fear and agony with no opportunity to say goodbye.

If I were able to take a test that showed I was likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, I would be stocking up on pills and planning my exit strategy. If I were told I had pancreatic cancer, I would start working on my bucket list, planning my farewell party, and requesting my lethal prescription. In any case, I would not turn myself over to medical science hoping for a miracle out of fear of death… because I do not fear death.

I died once and I know there is nothing to fear. It’s like stepping out of an old worn out overcoat into the sunshine on a spring day filled with love, peace and joy on our journey home!

To fear death is nothing other than to think oneself wise when one is not.
For it is to think one knows what one does not know.
No one knows whether death may not even turn out to be the greatest blessings of human beings.
And yet people fear it as if they knew for certain it is the greatest evil.

–Socrates

Book Recommendations from Diane Goble

Visions of Heaven

A Journey through the Afterlife

by Lisa Miller

In her article in “Time,” aptly posted at 12:01 AM on Easter Sunday, Lisa Miller begins with the question–

If you’ve seen heaven, does that mean it exists?

time_visionsheaven_trade_hi_res_frnttThe article is adapted from her above book, Visions of Heaven, in which she takes us on a journey through the afterlife through history, art and recent scientific research.

I’ve taken a 40-year journey myself in my quest for understanding, not just my own near-death experience but those of others, which led me through the history of religions and into the realms of quantum physics, the supernatural and psychedelics. You can read some of it in my ebook Sitting in the Lotus Blossom. I look forward to reading Ms. Miller’s book and will write a review here after I do.

•  •  •  •  •  •  •

The Last Adventure of Life

Inspiring approaches to living and dying

by Maria Dancing Heart Hoaglund

I highly recommend this new release by a dear friend and colleague Maria Dancing Heart Hoaglund for anyone dealing with a life-threatening illness or who is a caregiver for someone who is very ill or near death, or for anyone who is sitting in a hospital waiting room watching over a loved one. This is the 4th incarnation of her life-affirming guide into our last adventure of life.

2d1828a3c7a3f1783f3fabce59fc0bc2As a Transition Guide myself, I recommend her books to all those I come in contact with in my work with the dying. I require it of my students and have given copies to many of my senior friends.

Maria moved to Sedona, Arizona a year or so ago, as you can see from her book’s beautiful  cover, where she has flourished as a hospice minister and end of life counselor.

If you have a friend or loved one who is grieving or nearing the end of  life or is caring for an ill loved one and is open to talking about new ways to explore spirituality and death, or if you yourself are facing this journey in the near future, I  suggest this book as a compassionate companion along the way.

The book  is filled with inspirational stories, poems, prayers, scriptures and guided meditations supported by chapters on grief, relaxation tools and additional reference materials that will help readers reframe their experience of death into one of transition and transformation– a new adventure of life into the true nature of Reality.

Click on book cover to order from amazon.com

How we die – Dr. Sherwin Nuland died

Dr. Sherwin Nuland, surgeon, bioethicist and author of the book “How We Die,” died last week. He was 83 years old and died from prostate cancer. He felt it was important to describe in his book how we die, physically and mentally, from cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other common illnesses so we could have frank discussions with our doctor to help us deal with those aspects of illness and death that frighten us the most.

His first patient as a med student in a hospital ER died suddenly from a heart attack. He experienced the death of many family members including his mother when he was 11, and was with his father and his brother when they took their last breaths as they died from colon cancer. As a physician, he observed the process toward death of many of his patients in many different ways.

He wrote that death with dignity is a myth and while we would all like to die a good death, it rarely happens that way. Most of the time, patients suffer interminably, often prolonged by aggressive treatments, visits to the ICU, or futile treatments, through pain, humiliation and lack of control. Even under the best of care, the dying process, especially a prolonged dying process, can be agonizing for both the dying person and the family.

As a hospice volunteer for many years, I witnessed a number of deaths and been told about many others by volunteers, nurses and chaplains in support groups. Enough to agree with Dr. Nuland that we don’t always get what we ask for in that regard and when it does happen, it’s just a  coincidence.

More likely, we will be completely helpless or barely coherent and things will go on behind our backs without our knowledge or understanding by people who say they have our best interests at heart. We may want to die at home in our own bed surrounded by family but it’s more likely the last thing we’ll see will look more like a scene from a horror movie in a bright, sterile torture chamber.

Doctors will tell patients and families what they think they want to hear, that there is always something that can be done, that there’s always hope that the next treatment will be the one. Families tell their dying loved ones half truths to protect them, make promises they can’t keep, pretend everything is going well when it isn’t, avoid conversations about how they want to die until it is too late. Everyone follows the philosophy, as Dr. Nuland said he did for so long, that anything is better than death.

911 is called, CPR is administered, ribs are broken, tubes are inserted, bodies are bruised, invasive procedures performed. Maybe patients are put on ventilators and paralyzed so they don’t fight the restraints that bind them to keep their bodies alive. They know everything that is going on but they can’t do anything about it. They are trapped in a private hell while decisions about how to prolong life are debated in the hallways. Their death is terribly, terribly difficult and is the usual outcome of all this activity. Statistically, only a small percentage of these patients make it out of the hospital alive after this frightening experience. An even smaller percentage survive for more than a few months.

What gets taken away from the terminally ill or elderly patient is the opportunity to be at home surrounded by their loved ones during the last few weeks or months as the body shuts down naturally and the person adjusts to letting go. They lose the time to make amends and reconcile their lives, to say their goodbyes and fulfill their bucket lists.

This is what Dr. Nuland came to understand through the deaths of his patients and family members and why he wrote his book to help people make informed decisions about their preferences for end of life care, including when to stop aggressive, invasive treatments and accept pain management for the remainder of one’s life.

During his lifetime, hospice and palliative care have evolved to assume a bigger role in the care of terminally ill patients to keep people out of the ICU and allow them to die a good death at home surrounded by their family. It’s not available everywhere yet. Budget cuts are a problem. And it doesn’t work well for everyone. But it is bringing the business of dying back into the family and changing the practice of medicine at the end of life. Healing doesn’t necessarily mean curing the disease.

Dr. Nuland realized it’s not true that anything is better than death and, for many people, what they would have to go though in order to come out the other side alive is simply not worth the pain and effort for the short reprieve. He came to recognize that death is part of the life cycle and to redefine hope as the belief that something meaningful will happen, that we lived a life that meant something to others and will be renewed through others whose lives we touched.

Although Dr. Nuland wasn’t a proponent of physician-assisted dying, he was a strong advocate for end of life planning, including having The Conversation among family members, appointing a healthcare representative with the authority to speak for you if you become unable to communicate, and filling out an Advanced Healthcare Directive to assure your end of life wishes are carried out.

Being proactive doesn’t mean you are giving up or are by any means ready to die. The Conversation ideally should take place long before anyone is even sick or turns 65 because life can change on a dime and suddenly there is no time. Decisions have to be made immediately, no discussion.

If there has been no conversation and there is no Advance Healthcare Directive, the family is put under greater stress by being forced to make healthcare decisions for you without knowing what you might have wanted. As Dr. Nuland wrote doing everything may not always be the best choice. The question is where do you draw the line for your self? Next– tell someone!

Next month, April 16th, is National Healthcare Decisions Day, download Advanced Healthcare Directive forms by state for everyone in your family.

Get some tools and advice about having The Conversation with your family or with your neighbors, groups, organizations.

Become informed about Death With Dignity laws in your state; download forms from Compassion & Choices

Prepare your self mentally, emotionally and spiritually for your death whenever, however it happens – How to Die Consciously by Diane Goble

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Referral service for end-of-life suicide assistance

When I first read this news release put out by  Right to Life News Today, I laughed all the way through it and kept thinking “Thank God! How else are people going to find an assisted living facility where they can have control at the end of their lives?”

But that wasn’t the intent of the author, an attorney for the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, the National Right to Life Committee’s “arm in fighting to protect the vulnerable born from both direct killing and denial of lifesaving medical treatment, food and fluids.” This group opposes “infanticide and euthanasia with the same determination and vigor with which it fights abortion.”

The author was ranting about a referral service for senior living centers that also provided educational information about end-of-life planning, including the Death With Dignity law through Compassion and Choices of Washington (which has a Death With Dignity law in place).

It’s no wonder he called Compassion and Choices an “euthanasia advocacy organization.” They have that euthanasia mind-set without the understanding of the difference between killing a person without their consent and allowing a competent person to request a medication that will end his or her life near the end of  life, peacefully and painlessly.

This self-righteous attitude implying that what they think is ethical applies to everybody else just doesn’t work in this world anymore and to think they can force their religious claptrap and moral absolutist values on the rest of us is ludicrous.

I understand the concern for wholesale killing of the disabled and elderly and other so-called vulnerable people, but attempting to dictate to adults who have made their own decisions all their lives as if they are incapable of making the right choices about the end of their lives, is completely dictatorial, paternalistic and unconscionable.

Apparently they are opposed to this referral service educating the public about all issues relating to senior care and end-of life care that doesn’t fit their protocols. They don’t like the thought of a “Client Support Volunteer” from Compassion and Choices being available to assist the dying person and the family to be sure the law is followed and there are no mistakes, coercion, or prolonged suffering.

If these Right to Lifers want to be humane and constructive, instead of trying to scare people into believing their dreadful propaganda, they could provide the “information about suicide prevention services, or how to access available medical resources for the counseling and medication that can treat suicidal depression” that they complain Compassion and Choices doesn’t provide. Although, first, they need to learn the difference between suicidal depression and being ready to let go at the end of life– big difference.

Give people choices and trust them to make the right decisions about the end of their own lives. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it!

At the end of his blog, he provides a phone number and suggests you call this referral service and tell them how disappointed you are that they promote an assisted suicide advocacy group, that you won’t use their services and will tell all your friends not to either.

I called them and said “Thank you for being there.”

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