No doubt about it: the election of the US president on November 6, 2012 will be the most talked about, watched, debated, argued vote on that day.ï¿½ Yet in my home state of Massachusetts, there’s a ballot initiative that has passions flaring on both sides. Question 2 asks Massachusetts voters if they will or will not support this “Death with Dignity Act.”
Everywhere, including on the website of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, there are pro’s and con’s a-flying.ï¿½ So, I’m throwing my very personal two-cents into the argument.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with cancer (stage IV – yes, it had metastasized) and heard the traditional statement one hears on gawd-awful occasions such as this: “Go home. Put your affairs in order…”ï¿½ The story of making it through treatment protocols may be written about at some future point. For today’s purpose though, let it be known that never once did I think about “hurrying along” the hand of death.ï¿½ ï¿½
Yes, there are those who suffer horribly. Trust me, I know about that. ï¿½And those who love and care for terminally ill individuals may be torn – what can be done to ease her pain, what should we say to lighten his suffering, what…what…what. Death for me at that time would have been extremely premature. Yet, I felt an opportunity was being presented for me to model behavior for my children – and yes, even for others who were near and dear.
We hear the argument, “People have control over their lives. They ought to have control over their deaths.” Just as we had no control over the moment our life started, we have no control over the moment it will end.ï¿½ What we do have control over, though, is our attitude. ï¿½And that’s a lot of control.ï¿½ A healthy attitude approaching death starts with a healthy attitude during life.ï¿½ The attitude we display as we are dying is inextricably tied to how we have lived that life.ï¿½
No one wants to soil their pants, vomit in their bed, bleed on their clothing or the furniture.ï¿½ Someone is going to have to clean up all these messes, after all, and the activities can all be excruciatingly personal. Yet, these activities give those tending us an opportunity to rise above daily minutia. It gives them an opportunity to become role models themselves, to demonstrate caring, concern, tenderness, patience, and more.ï¿½
No one wants to be in pain.ï¿½ I get it. And it’s a positive step that we’re becoming a lot more sophisticated regarding pain management. While we don’t have it perfect yet, we’re making forward strides.ï¿½
You may say that you don’t want to see large expenses being incurred at end of life.ï¿½ Well, then, don’t incur them.ï¿½ Refuse treatments that are marginal and only extend one’s suffering.ï¿½ This is your choice. Make it known.
Jeff Jacoby states eloquently in his editorial in the Boston Globe (What About Do No Harm), “Civilized societies do not encourage people to commit suicide, or seek ways to make it easier for them to do so. …Massachusetts voters…are being asked to endorse a view that our ethical culture at its best has always abhorred: that certain lives aren’t worth living.”
So no, I don’t support doctor-assisted suicide.ï¿½ As for “Death with Dignity,” when it’s time, I fully expect my death to be dignified – but definitely not artificially stimulated.