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Dignity and Compassion in Assisted Suicide

Dignity and Compassion in Assisted Suicide

Simple human dignity and compassion. It’s hard to juxtapose that with end-of-life medical interventions that serve only to prolong pain and suffering, often against the wishes of the patient, while adding thousands of dollars to medical costs for no benefit.

Faced with such suffering and no hope of recovery, would you opt out if you could? 

That’s exactly what one Washington woman did recently, becoming the first person to take advantage of the state’s Death with Dignity law. Diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and certain death, she made a conscious, well thought out decision about her own death. 

In the comfort of her own home, with her family and her physician present, she took the prescribed medication that would end her life peacefully. Contrast that with the alternative mixture  of powerful drugs, tubes and wires, and the beeping machines of a cold hospital room. 

CNN reports that Washington’s law was approved by about 60 percent of voters last November, and 401 people have taken advantage of Oregon’s assisted suicide law since it passed in 1994. 

It’s not the right choice for everyone, but it is a welcome relief to many folks to know that the option is there, without drastic consequences for the loved ones left behind.

As uncomfortable as this topic may be, it is an important one and something we should be discussing with those closest to us. Advanced directives — a living will — is the best way to ensure that your wishes are documented, avoid unnecessary confusion for your loved ones. A medical power-of-attorney allows you to choose who will made decisions on your behalf, if you become unable. Laws vary from state to state.

Controversial though it may be, this is a compassionate law, and a dignified option that joins the patient and doctor together in the goal of easing suffering for the terminally ill.

More information on end-of-life issues can be found at:

Medline Plus, A Service of the U.S. Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health

Compassion and Choices

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

Individual state advanced directives can be downloaded at CaringInfo.org

Do you believe assisted suicide is acceptable?

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23 comments

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8:19AM PDT on Aug 29, 2012

She should do as she pleases. Terrible..

Huber.

7:01AM PDT on Jun 12, 2010

In cases where there is nothing more that can be done and you are in constant pain or lose your physical abilities and you are a mind trapped in a body that has deserted you then the decision to be humanely helped to end your life should be yours alone.

1:52PM PDT on Jun 11, 2010

A DOG HAS THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO DIE WHEN HIS QUALITY OF LIFE IS NOT GOOD TO LIVE WITH BUT A HUMAN BEING NOT????

3:59PM PDT on Jun 10, 2010

NOW my personal oppinion about the humans right breach made by parlamentarians from Australia!
NORMALLY the governments would not care if old people would die, anyway lots of governments have
problems with too many old useless people BUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A NEW GENERATION CAN ENVISION
LIVING A FRUITFULL 50 YEARS AND HAVE AN OPTION TO END IT PAINLESS? THEN THE SAME GENERATION WOULD
WISH TO HAVE A TAX PLAN TO ALLOW NOT INVESTING IN THE PENSION PLAN AND THERE YOU HAVE THE PROBLEM...
... GOVERNMENTS NEED THOSE BIG MONEY!!!

9:08PM PDT on Jun 2, 2009

My mother is in the last stages of Alzheimer's. When I visit her now (she is in an extended care facility) she doesn't know who I am. She sometimes can communicate with me with one or two words; most of the time she cannot speak to me. While I am with her she lays in her bed and stares at the wall or the ceiling. My father, her husband of 49 years, died last September. She is completely unaware of his passing and has never asked me about him since his death. The life she LIVED is over. Fortunately, I have a medical power of attorney and I was able to implement a DNR and add hospice care to my mother's care plan so that she will eventually be allowed to pass with some peace and dignity. I believe that any law maker or person who had to witness a loved one go through this kind of torturous withdrawal from life would be more receptive to the idea of assisted suicide. I know if my mother had the choice, she would have definitely opted for that rather than what she is going through now. It surprises me that people are all for "leaving it in God's hands" yet they are more than willing to interfere with the natural process of death by hooking a person up to any kind of artificial means available to keep them "alive." It makes no sense to me at all. As I watch my mother go through the last stages of a "second death" I am not afraid to die - I am afraid to live attached to a machine because of someone's perverse idea of what "life" really means.

1:36PM PDT on May 31, 2009

My Mother had bone cancer, she knew if she did not wear the brace, her spine would collapse, she would die...
One morning after her sponge bath, she refused to let me put it back on, she was tired of being in pain and bedridden.
I never put it back on, she died 29 hours later, and her suffering was over. I love her very much, and I miss her.

9:51PM PDT on May 28, 2009

I know that if it was me and I was suffering ~ I'd want to have the option of assisted suicide. People have "living wills" that state whether or not they want live saving measures (ie. shock paddles, breathing machines, etc.) taken to safe them or not and that's legal.

7:00AM PDT on May 28, 2009

I believe that it is a personal decision one must make when faced with illness that there is no survival rate or injury that is severe enough that there is no chance of survivial without the help of machines. However, this is not a choice that anyone should be able to make for you and your intentions should be clearly expressed so there is no question. Personally, I believe in quality of life...I would like to go out on a good day....not one in which my body is being forced to breath or one in which I am trapped in a body that is dead. I have watched to many loved ones die in an un-natural way to know that this is not what I want. My god is an understanding god, if I choose to make that decision, then we will have to have a talk about it when we meet.

12:35AM PDT on May 28, 2009

yes i believe people should have the choice to end there suffering when i saw a friend of mine how he sufferd with motor neurone disease,and my own husband with cancer you would not let your own pet suffer. i would just like to say i agree with every thing PAMELA H said

5:08PM PDT on May 27, 2009

The reason that dying with dignity has been criminalised is because they can't make money from dead people. Simple as that. While we are kept alive by drugs and machines we are fattening the coffers of the big pharmaceutical companies and paying rich doctors and hospitals. Once we die, all that stops. And if we choose to die at home, hospitals get nothing. We can't have that now can we [sarcasm intended]. Every natural process of life has been taken from us and medicalized for the same reason. From giving birth to menstrual cycles to family planning to menopause and dying. These things are not sicknesses, they are natural and normal human processes.

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