More Than Meets the Eye, True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife covers many aspects of the dying and grieving process and sheds light on euthanasia, suicide, near-death experience, and spirit visits after the passing of a loved one. ___________________________________________

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Right to Die

As you think about the right to die, answer the following question:

1) Should we, as Beloff describes, have a right to die as we choose and have access to any community resources to implement our wishes? Why or Why Not? Yes. The US Constitution allows us the right to pursue happiness and liberty. To violate one’s wishes concerning his or her death is just that--a violation of another person’s will.

My grandmother almost died in September, but thanks to medical procedures, she recovered to about half the health she had before her allergic reaction to an antibiotic (Macrobid) she was taking for a urinary tract infection. The drug caused her heart to race for three days, during which time she had been taken to the doctor two times complaining of chest pain. Her heart was pumping at 150 beats per minute and she was on the verge of a stroke or heart attack when she was rushed to the hospital via ambulance. She now has congestive heart failure. She’s had fluid has drained from her chest twice, and she is now in palliative care as a DNR patient.

She had surgery while in the hospital to repair a crushed vertebra that was causing her horrible pain. We didn’t think she would survive the surgery, but she did. Ever since coming home from the hospital this last time, she has begged to die--daily repeating the request to family members, Jesus, or anyone who will listen. She says she’s glad I’m coming to see her at Thanksgiving because I’ll sit there and hold her hand and listen to her. That seems to be her most prevalent need at this point--not to be alone.

She is so pitiful and has lost the quality of life she once had. Her dignity is lost as she is at the mercy of someone else to change her diapers. This is no way to live. If it were legal to do so, I would personally administer a drug to allow her to die peacefully. I realize that would be active euthanasia, but after watching my uncle and my grandfather die slow agonizing deaths while under medical “care,” I have no problem with this gentle hastening of death. I don’t approve of Dr. Kevorkian being in prison for helping elderly patients end their suffering. It was with their consent, not against their will, but rather in accordance to their will. Everyone has the right to live AND die as they choose. There is no freedom in being forced to live in misery.

When the body is dying and beginning to shut down, the appetite is greatly diminished. Nanny doesn’t want to eat, but my mom brings her food and makes her eat a few bites. I know my mom doesn’t want anyone thinking she starved her own mother, but I also know my mom is ready to let go of Nanny and allow her to die of natural causes. From what I read in our text, Nanny could easily die of dehydration if she refused to drink. But then, if she went into a coma, my family would probably have her hydrated with an IV drip. That might bring her around for a few days, but what’s the point? The point is we don’t know when it is someone’s time to die.

Negative Outcomes:

2) GUILT: It’s like you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Allowing someone to die, means doing nothing to force them to live. That brings too much guilt on the by-standers, so they go the opposite extreme and use technology to prolong life (or postpone death, as our text says) because again, not to use whatever measures are available also brings guilt.

VIOLATION OF WILL: What about the needless suffering we impose on our loved ones by keeping them here against their will? That’s a violation of their will provided they have asked to be allowed to die. Would you tie your loved one to a chair to keep them from leaving you? This is about what we are doing when we use life support and artificial means to keep someone alive when they have expressed the desire to depart. No one is assured, even if they have a living will, that their wishes will be honored.

FINANCIAL LOSS: Even those with good health insurance reach a point when the coverage runs out. Keeping a patient alive costs much more than allowing them to die a natural death. Many insurance policies do not pay full death benefits if the insured committed suicide.

JUDGEMENT: I have a friend whose brother committed suicide in 1965. His family is still grieving the loss. Early on, they experienced a lot of rejection from friends and even judged and blamed themselves for not being able to see it coming and do something to prevent the suicide. If only people could understand that Brett had personal reasons for taking his own life and stop trying to police society, thereby taking away the rights of another person. In the “Listening to the Voices” box on page 298-299 of our text, I was so proud of Diane for the decision she made. The fact that she remained in control of her life all the way to the end is admirable.

I had no idea that dying with dignity could be so complicated. There’s much more to the process than the physical exhaustion and emotional grief. There are many decisions to be made by and for the patient. We’ve been through this several times as a family, but each individual has a unique situation. While we hold to a quality-of-life view, I truly hope physician-assisted active euthanasia is legal before I’m old or in the condition my grandmother is in. If not, I suppose I’ll have to move to Oregon before I get old and decrepit. At least PAD is legal there.

My overall opinion is that if we can force babies to enter the world via induced labor, we should be able to help old folks leave the world when they are ready. We put our pets to sleep when they are suffering, yet we let elderly humans suffer indefinitely. There’s something quite upsetting about that.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


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