Friday, March 28, 2008

Death in the Individual's Life

A December issue of New York Times Magazine printed an article about former Governor of Washington State Booth Gardner running a campaign to legalize doctor-assisted suicides in the United States. The article basically paints him as a bit of a selfish man: having almost completely missed out on his son’s, Doug Gardner, early life as well as time with his daughter and wife to be in the public eye of politics. His basic principle behind the topic, one which just fell in his lap while he looked for something to promote to put himself back in the public eye, is “My Life, My Death, My Control”. His son, a Born-Again Christian with whom Booth is trying to reconcile before he passes (he is 71 with Parkinson’s disease), is propelled against his father’s campaign by a belief in “sanctity of life”; that the taking of his own life is not a judgment for Gardner to make. These viewpoints are the most popular ones on the topic.

There are other things to consider, like the repercussions of introducing such a law into the U.S. society. How the training of the procedure will affect doctors who must put introducing the option to patients into practice, subconsciously suggesting it to some people because it may seem the easier choice based on the situation. How it will play into the minds of the patients, who may take the option because the cost of medicine, surgery, treatment, etc. would be too much financial strain on them and their family. Or perhaps other patients who ask for the option as a quick fix for their fit of depression and anxiety. There was also an opinion expressed in the article by a feminist who believed that deeply embedded traditional gender roles may compel a sick woman to ask for euthanasia because she feels meaningless from not being able to take care of the house and family (to cook and clean).

Anything new that’s introduced into society has its effects. This is just how dynamics work. Although some doctors may persuade depressed or poor patients unjustly into killing themselves, I highly doubt there will be some landslide of this when the law is introduced. Furthermore, this isn’t the 1920s. A much higher percentage of women are more independent, therefore being able to decide the meaning of their lives for themselves.

For me, the basic principle behind the issue is basically how Booth states it above: My life, my death, my control.

To me, it seems like the people who promote the “sanctity of life” belief define the word “life” as just being able to breathe, and that this is the gift of God. The patient’s pain can be downright intolerable, as well as irreversible and incurable, only to get worse and worse until the patient dies of a raging shock of misery. But as long as they are physically alive, they should breath until the last breath. So basically, these people want ill patients to suffer for as long as they possibly can. This is the “sanctity” they speak of.

Life is entirely too complex for it to be narrowly defined as “alive”. It’s a crucial piece of life, but not life in itself. Once again, as I see it, life is basically the ability to be. To be mentally, physically, spiritually, musically, politically, religiously, myspacially…..however. As long as you have the ability to be; to affirm yourself. It is at this point which only the patient can possibly know if they have it left in them to be; if God is calling them back. No one else can possibly know this but the patient.

I speak of this, envisioning those who come down with a strong illness that will eat away at them gradually and cannot possibly be cured. But then again, we’re back to making the mistake of trying to quantify something that can’t be measured. A doctor who diagnosis’ Lou Gehrig’s disease can proceed to explain that the patient will acquire muscle atrophy, in his arms, legs, then the rest of his body due to motor neuron damage, struggle to eat because of increased chance of choking to death, and other symptoms until they eventually die of pneumonia or something else. But they cannot describe the misery and pain of having to live with all of this. Since this is the case, most people also see the patient’s depression as a symptom of the disease, rather than the rationalized outlook of someone who experiences these conditions, to the point in their lives where they’re just a conscious soul trapped in a vegetable of a body, and then onward until it consumes them whole. Attempting to narrow down a list of illness for which euthanasia should be applicable is a bit of a problem as well.

As I’ve said before, to be or not to be is the decision of each individual patient, and the reason to live infinitely varies as well. One may choose to live for their families, one may choose to fight the illness until they can’t anymore, and another may endure for their own reason. Of course, the patient must take other people’s opinion into critical consideration, but other people shouldn’t be allowed to make that decision for them (unless it’s obvious that the patient is making a suicidal decision in delusion). You may consider this frame of thinking selfish, but what would you call the “loving” family member(s) or friends that expect the patient stay in constant searing hurt everyday just to be around them?

Life may very well be God’s gift, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that Death is an absolute bad thing. I wouldn’t think Christians, who put so much emphasis on the afterlife, would look so harshly on the topic. Just as well, I think the belief that suicide is cowardly is stupid and irrational. Illness is not some $100,000 challenge on Survivor. Instead of looking at it as being strong versus being cowardly, the decision should be viewing as choosing to rest in peace instead of dying painfully.


  1. (ok I will be agreeing and disagreeing with things, most likely repeating what you say... but you will have to deal with my blogdick and read)

    I feel like, there is no way that it could go well for a long while if the law were to actually pass.

    You have already stated why I think its a bad idea for it to be legal... people would def take advantage of it. To make some point, whether in politics or whatever. There are always deranged people who take things like that and twist it into some sick platform for something.

    When my grandmother was taken off of life support, I thought it was the right thing to do. She was nothing more than a corpse with a beating heart. NOTHING else was functioning.

    I thought it was the right thing to do when they pulled the plug on my uncle. After being in the hospital for so long, having his toes, then legs, then arm cut off because of the diabetes.. to the losing his eyesight, to his eyes deteriorating... lastly, he was too delirious to even coherently speak.

    But there will be too many people who would try and take advantage (just as you said). And Yes, it is cowardly to say you want to take your life because there is something you cant handle and you just want to end it. No, not speaking on diseases such as lou gehrigs.

    For an artist who loses their arms... would it be ok for them to want to die because they wouldnt be able to sketch or draw or paint? To feed themselves the way they used to? or be able to wipe their own behind? Or hug someone they love? That persons life would change drastically, but it may be too much for them to handle mentally. Their spirit would die.

    Anyone has the right to take their own life. People do it all the time. There is no law saying they cant. No one can stop you... not really. So why have it so that your doctor helps you? I also think its cowardly because its kind of like, you dont have the guts to do it yourself. You want someone to share the buck with you. And it actually forces you to go through with it since someone else is helping you to take your life.

    . . . .

    Does that mean that you really wouldnt want to die? If you have to have someone there to take your life with you?

    Spiritually, I dont think its the right thing to do. I dont follow any denomination (sp?) so I wont say its against any religion of mine.

    Anyways, I will stop my rambling from my tired brain... ciao.

  2. The Clandestine SamuraiMarch 29, 2008 at 8:33 AM

    People don't always have the strength or means to do it themselves, hence, they ask the doctor whose trying to take care of them.

    And I can understand the artist wanting to kill themselves if they had to go through all that.

  3. You can understand it, but dont you think its taking it a little far?

    I think that is.

    If I didnt have the arms to hug someone I love, I would be happy to at least be able to hear their voice or see them. To be in their company.

    If the artist can still appreciate art, and maybe.. just maybe.. learn to create it in another manner, why miss out on the chance?

    Those are the kind of things I think when I read the blog.

  4. The Clandestine SamuraiMarch 30, 2008 at 9:04 AM STILL WANNA FIGHT??!?!?????

  5. *punches samurai*

  6. Don't Feed The PixiesMarch 31, 2008 at 7:12 AM

    Actually, it's technically illegal to commit suicide - hard to prosecute if successful.

    An interesting piece and very deep - one can understand the fear that a Harold Shipman (serial-killing Doctor) might emerge, or that people may be forced to take euthenasia due to cultural background. Research based on countries where it is already legal to have assisted suicide suggests this does not happen - but does this mean that we have the right to decide on life and death?

    Well, we already do. Sterile and gay couples have sex-free children from dead partners, we have blood transfusions (something that some religions won't accept because it interferes with Gods work)

    There is also the argument that if god hadn't wanted us to have it then s(he) wouldn't have allowed us to invent it.

    I don't claim to have an answer for everyone - personally i'm scared sh*tless of dying, but would i prefer to live in endless pain? only time can answer that.


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