ASSISTED SUICIDE: YAY OR NAY – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #11

Do you believe that terminally ill people should be allowed or encouraged to end their lives via physician-assisted suicide? If so, under any circumstances or should there be restrictions? If not, why not?

At last, a question into which I can sink my fangs!

On a personal level, I say yes, yes, and yes again. If I will put one of my dogs out of his or her misery, why should a human suffer the agony of a terminal illness when we wouldn’t do it to our pets? Other countries — I believe Holland is one — allows humans the right to end their lives in peace and dignity, but in this country, we are not. Nor in England, from whom much of our law comes.

Do I think anyone under any conditions should be allowed to end their life? Maybe not. But this is something that the medical community should seriously look at and come to some kind of resolution. Many doctors — privately — will help a dying person, especially one in a vegetative state, to die by simply not treating an illness. But it depends on the individual physician and his or her relationship to religion, faith, or whatever. And some simply won’t do something which might endanger their license.

My son promised to take me behind the shed and blow my head off if I got that bad.  But really, I’d rather be prepared — just in case. I don’t know how many times I’ve signed a paper saying “Please, just let me die!” — but each time I’m in the hospital, they ask me to sign again. For some reason, they can’t seem to remember what I said last time.

You know, before medicine made it possible for the terminally ill to linger on for sometimes years rather than dying quickly, people didn’t linger indefinitely with machines to make them breathe and tubes to provide nourishment. When an illness became that bad, we died. Like we were supposed to.

I’m in favor of that. At least allow us to die when we are ready to die. If nothing else, please — turn off the machinery.



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37 replies

  1. Marilyn,
    My daughter and I had the same discussion late last year when we had to put my Father in hospice in October. He had Alzheimers/Dementia. He was 72 years young. It was harsh watching him waste away everyday and he finally told my niece he couldn’t do this anymore. To see him like that and not be able to help him along was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life so far. He never got back out of bed after Christmas Day and GOD rest his soul, he passed away on Jan 5th. At home, with his wife of 52 years. He was where he wanted to be and with who he wanted to be. I still haven’t broke down and cried, not sure why. I wonder if it’s because I know he is in a better place as cliche as it sounds. I saw what he went through and I am at peace knowing he is no longer suffering or hurting. He is alive and well in the other world. I am all for allowing assisted suicide but is it really suicide? Before seeing my Father go through what he went through, I would have said hell no but until you have lived it-you don’t really know what you believe.

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  2. I’m with you, Marilyn. If a situation is hopeless and involves extreme suffering, the patient should be allowed to choose to end it. Right now, the most we can do is opt for withholding of nutrients and fluids, thereby starving to death, and that’s a hell of a way to die. I watched my mother go that way in hospice. Sure, they gave her plenty of morphine to control the pain, but I know she would have preferred not to go through that once she had been diagnosed as terminal.

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  3. My husband and I both have it in writing. As do our doctors and the hospital. And son knows where the paperwork is, too. What you went through with your first husband–no one should have to go through that.

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  4. I heard of someone who had “DNR” tattooed on their chest in big bold letters, so that if push came down to shove, the physicians (who are bound by law to ‘do all they can’) would have to respect that “Do Not Resuscitate”. Me? I’ve got it in writing that they are never to use heroic measures nor resuscitate me, should I die while in surgery or whatever. I can say I’d be mighty pissed to wake up and find they’d ignored that. And the machine business? When hubby was dying, and although we’d had long conversations abut our mutual aversion to being kept alive on machines; the hospital personnel put him on a ventilator and other machinery. Because, even though he didn’t want any of that, he hadn’t put it in writing. My word wasn’t good enough either and couldn’t stop them doing that. Not for eleven days, which is how long he lingered on the ventilator. Once they stopped it (because I kept insisting and apparently there was a window of how long they’d do that without spousal consent) he died within 15 minutes. Told me, anyway, that he wanted to die and would have done so, had he not been kept here artificially.

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    • I’ve got it in writing too but they can never find the paper. Which is interesting because I’ve signed that same DNR before EVERY major surgery. I think they don’t WANT to find it. Jeff didn’t want all that stuff, but he didn’t put it in writing. They did eventually take him off the ventilator, but it turned out, he could breathe on his own. Even though his brain was gone, his body still worked. Hearg pumped, lungs breathed. He died almost a year later of untreated pneumonia. Finally.

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  5. Mrs Widds and I have the ‘take me out and shoot me’ agreement too. Our medico’s and politico’s and religious’o’ are in the throes of this decision too. I think they will finally get their boots out of their arses and make a federal law soon-ish-ly.

    Many years ago a dear friend had reached the end of her battle with breast cancer and decided to choose how she would die. She had a sympathetic doctor, and this was in a country where assisted suicide was a criminal offence at the time. She decided on an overdose of her usual painkiller medication (she was already on dosages that would’ve felled an elephant) So we gather and say goodbye, the injections happen and she falls into a coma, and not long after wakes up again. Once she realizes what’s happened she asks for another shot. The doctor suggests a different drug, and she says she can’t have that because she’s allergic to it! …after getting the joke she had the shot and off she went.

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    • That’s what I mean that taking an OD doesn’t always work. Sometimes, you just fall into a really deep sleep and wake up later after a nice long sleep.

      It’s hard to find a doctor who is willing to risk his license like that. She was lucky to find him. I don’t know what we’ll do if we have to make that choice. it’s a terrifying prospect.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, yes, yes!!! Thank you!!

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  7. To me, these two words are completely different: “allowed or encouraged”. I completely agree with “allowed” and completely disagree with “encouraged”. “Allowed” seems to imply personal choice, and “encouraged” seems to imply being forced out of the way by others making a choice for you–

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  8. I hope to find a way to painlessly pull my own plug when I’m done.

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  9. There comes a point at which suffering is not living, it’s just suffering. While in theory, I agree, I’m also concerned they’ll pull the plug “because”. Takes faith in those around you to know the difference I guess.

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  10. A six states, including California, plus DC, have “death with dignity” laws on the books that permit physician-assisted suicide when certain conditions are met. Massachusetts is not one of the six. It’s a small step, but at least it’s something.

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  11. Very difficult subject, Marilyn. I wonder how the medical doctors feel about it? Some wouldn’t mind and others would feel terrible about it. It’s when you have to ask someone else to do it for you. I think it is legal, under certain conditions, in Canada now and our doctors are struggling with it.
    Leslie

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  12. Thank you, Marilyn, for this thoughtful reflection. A friend once asked a group of us to assist in suicide when it came to the point where life no longer had any point. He provided precise detail for how to do it. We weren’t ready to sign on, for multiple reasons, I suspect. Fortunately for us, he died of (more or less) natural causes in hospice. Palliative care took away his will to live or die.

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  13. In switzerland we have EXIT and some travel to Switzerland to partake of its services. Me? I don’t think so, but who knows?

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  14. I don’t know how it is around the world, but here in the US we are so uncomfortable speaking about end-of-life issues and it’s a huge problem. By extending life at all costs, I don’t think we’re really helping anyone, not the family trapped in artificially extended grief, and definitely not the patient whose quality of life is often unimaginably low. I don’t know that I’m comfortable with the notion of encouraging assisted suicide, but I am extremely frustrated that so many families and medical professionals won’t even have a conversation about the option.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My first husband lingered long after his brain stopped functioning. Almost a year. It was a horror story for everyone and I can’t imagine wanting that for myself. But the doctors in this country have to learn when it’s time to let people pass. When the brain is gone and the body is mechanically functional, is that life?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The doctors, yes, and also the legal system. I’m so sorry both of you had to go through that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s a nightmare. Having actually been there, I can truly say I would never willingly allow ANYONE else to suffer through that. On so many levels, it’s a nightmare. There is this person who WAS a person. A smart, witty, funny, intellectual guy with a ton of charm who is now a blank-eyed vegetable in a human body. For whom you are required to care. And the very very worst part was that he always said that was exactly how he DIDN’T want to die — attached to a semi-life by wires and tubes. Unfortunately, he failed to sign that paper. You have to sign the paper and make sure that you have told everyone who has any power over your life and death about it.

          Liked by 1 person

      • If we can show compassion for our pets (and, yes, it’s so difficult making that decision), why can’t we do the same thing for our loved ones? It was extremely difficult for me with one our of dogs, my beloved Norwich Terrier, Divot. I didn’t want to let her go. She was wearing doggy diapers and was clearly in discomfort. Marilyn finally made me see I was thinking more about myself, my feelings rather thn Divot’s eroding quality of life. Yes, I cried a lot when we took Divot to her last visit with the Vet. I made the mistake of looking at her in her final moment. It was awful and I couldn’t stop crying. Tears I never had for my Parents when they passed.
        We should have that same compassion and empathy for our spouses, relatives and friends instead of putting them on tubes with long shot hopes they’ll survive. We’re thinking of ourselves and not them.

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