Death With Dignity– right or wrong?

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The thing about laws in this country is that there is a separation between Church and State. To me that means just because some church or religion has a rule about something based on their beliefs that doesn’t make it a law of the land. They can’t impose their beliefs on the rest of us. They may express their opinion, and it should be taken into consideration in debates, but they can’t bully the rest of us with their derogatory statements or by pouring money into negative advertising to get their own way.

Calling aid-in-dying “assisted suicide” is inflammatory and demeaning to people who are dying. It is heinous attempt to frighten people, who are already frightened because they or someone they know may be dying, to coerce them into thinking they would be committing murder or suicide, let alone incurring God’s wrath. These may be the kind of tactics some people use to scare people into supporting their cause, but they do not speak for the majority as polls have so often shown.

It’s all well and good that certain religious groups want to protect vulnerable people from being murdered for convenience (and they should be), but to impose their view of morality on others, especially in personal and family matters, is beyond arrogance and presumption.

There are people who believe in the sanctity of life– that it is a gift from God and only God determines the time of death.

There are people who believe taking one’s own life is a sin, punishable by eternal damnation.

There are people who believe suffering has some redemptive value and should not be interfered with by hastening death.

There are people who believe when life is over, that’s it, dust to dust– so it does not matter what you do while you’re here. There is no God, no Heaven, no Hell. The ones with the most toys while they’re here, win.

There are those who believe one must follow the practices of a certain religion to get into “heaven” or be rewarded.

There are those who believe in a loving and forgiving God who welcomes everyone home.

There are those who believe that leaving one’s body is an adventure we get to go on at the end of this life, who look forward to their transition.

There are those who believe we are light beings who pass in and out of physical environments and less dense dimensions of the Universe as part of a greater journey, and death is just a transformation.

How do we take into account all these different beliefs when creating laws to regulate end-of-life procedures while protecting the vulnerable?

We give patients the right to make their own decisions, according to their own beliefs, regarding the care and treatment of their own body at the end of their lives, including when to end their own lives if they so choose… with the caveat that it’s a well-considered, educated decision. But it’s their business, not mine or yours or anybody else’s… least of all the government or the hospital or insurance companies or any religious group.

Protections need to be in place to prevent force or coercion. Hopefully we’ve learned from the atrocities and genocides of the past and have no need to repeat them. The elderly, the terminally-ill and people with disabilities need to make their wishes for future healthcare planning known while they are capable of doing so. They get to choose.

Those who want to do everything, try everything, fight on no matter what or how long, should write that in their Advance Directives. People who choose no treatment or to stop treatments and let nature take its course should have that written down.

Those who want to opt out early should be able to request a prescription for life-ending medication and not be forced to starve themselves to death or suffer unbearable agony. It has to be written down and Advance Healthcare Directives have to be honored.

This whole thing about whether a dying person asking for a lethal prescription is depressed is just ridiculous. They’re not just having a bad day, their boyfriend didn’t just break up with them, they don’t want to die… they are dying. Their doctor has told them there is nothing else to be done… go home, get your affairs in order, call hospice, you have 6 months or less to live. They have thought long and hard about this and made their decision with a clear mind before they made their request. And statistics show that most people who make the request don’t end up taking the pills. Just knowing they had the option was the comfort they needed and they are able to die peacefully at home in their own bed.

Then we have doctors who are against participating in assisting a dying patient by writing a prescription knowing if the patient takes it, it will end his life. They have their oath of do no harm, give no poison. They became doctors to heal people, not to kill them. Even though doctors and nurses are presumably the most qualified to administer drugs, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists say it is contrary to the Hippocratic Oath and would erode the public trust in medical professionals.

When it comes to capital punishment, medical ethics prevent doctors from participating in executions and they apply the same rationale to dying people not on death row. What often happens in prisons is that lethal injections are carried out by inexperienced technicians which increases the possibility of mistakes that can cause complications. What happens at home without proper medical care, when people take matters into their own hands, is often botched suicide attempts with dire consequences.

What is needed is a new medical specialty to insure proper administration of life-ending drugs and personal attention to  patients to assure a peaceful transition according to their last wishes. Patients need to be fully informed of procedures, effects, timelines, and so on, and the family about what to expect and how to plan by a competent, comforting person. This could be retired doctors or nurses who have the compassion to help people die on their own terms because prescriptions can be written and proper assistance rendered, and certain regulations need to be in place to assure death with dignity. We can work this out so medical care doesn’t end until after death.

It isn’t a matter of right or wrong; it’s a matter of choice.

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