Monday, November 3, 2014

Hot Button Issue: Death with Dignity

I try not to address those big "hot button" topics that stir up opinions and emotions among readers.  It's not what I have this blog for, and honestly, it bothers me that people can be so rude just because someone has a different opinion than they do.  This is the United States of America.  Freedom of speech is one of our rights as citizens.

Anyway, I wanted to touch on something that has been all over the news lately as it sort of relates to me.  Not in the exact sense but, there is the hovering death monster on my horizon. 

You may or may not have heard of Brittany Maynard. Brittany was a 29 year old woman diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma.  She was given 6 months to live.  Her condition was not something that could be reversed by chemo or surgeries.  This was it.  She could have done chemo and given herself a few more months but, honestly, after seeing so many people go through chemo only to die ... I would think that the suffering isn't worth it. 

Brittany had chosen her date of death, and planned her life around that date.  As it approached, she was feeling well enough to not want to do it that date.  So she didn't, but then her health must have deteriorated rapidly because the next day she went ahead with it.  Brittany had moved to Oregon because she could have the option of ending her suffering.  She knew she would die anyway and chose to not go out in the most agonizing way.  I think it is admirable.

It got me thinking.  I watched my dad suffer for the last six months of his life because he chose to do chemo to prolong his life even if only for a short while.  I mean, he had an 8 year old son.  He had told his doctor that he didn't want to suffocate at the end so ... they had a plan that when he was headed down that path, he would be put in a coma so he wouldn't know what happened.  And, that's what they did.  It's sort of the same thing, I guess.  I mean, my father had a DNR but didn't actively initiate his death.

Would I do it?  I can't say.  I've had so many nightmares since my own weird diagnosis (how do you pluralize diagnosis?!)about my death and how I am not ready.  I'm not.  No way, no how.  I haven't done anything that makes me feel like I have had a full life, like I lived a good life.   Ms. Maynard ... she LIVED!  She has so many experiences and memories that most people in the world would love to have.  You can't look at her life and wish more for her.  Well, you can but ... you know what I mean.  And still, even with all of that ... I still don't know how I could actually take the pills to end my life.

Could I look around at the people with me and be like "Peace Out." even if I was headed that way anyway?  I just don't know.

I have massive amounts of respect for Brittany Maynard.  She's awesome, and strong, and I applaud her choice to take her life into her own hands and leave this world while she was still somewhat coherent enough to say proper goodbyes and do anything she needed.  It takes an insane amount of strength to be able to do what she did. 

I think this is a choice that everyone who has a terminal illness should have.  There comes a point in the process where being alive is unbearable.  Being pumped full of drugs to keep people comfortable usually only makes them loopy and out-of-it.   There's a massive amount of suffering that people can go through as the end of their life draws near.  I don't want that for anyone.  I wouldn't want it for myself.  But, I fear I wouldn't be brave or strong enough to make that decision for myself.  However, I think it is a decision I should be allowed. 

My heart goes out to her family as they face this new chapter of their lives without her.  Even knowing this day was coming would not have made their suffering any less  A death is a death.  This person is gone from your life and no one ... no one deals with that easily.  I hope that they can find some peace in their life, and continue to live the lives that she would want them to have.  Their Brittany gave the world something to hope for, and brought awareness to a situation that everyone should look at. 

If someone is truly terminal, and will die, ... and is actively dying, they should have the right to say when they are done.  They should be able to want to have their goodbyes be something they remember, to participate in.  Doesn't everyone say they wish they could have said all these things to someone before they die?  I know I did.  I still do.  I have hours of conversation I wish I could have been brave enough to have with my parents before they died.  Knowing that day was upon me ... I would have been able to actually do it.  Instead, I believed in my whole heart that if I didn't say goodbye to my father, he wouldn't leave me.  I was wrong.  He had no choice. 

Dying with Dignity is helpful to the entire family.  At least, that is my belief.  You may disagree and that is your right, remember?  But, let us also remember that our lives are our lives.  If we choose to use the Dying with Dignity plan, than so be it.  If you choose not to?  That's OK too.  Isn't America wonderful?

I don't have to face that choice right now, and I may never have to.  With Wegener's ... I figure my death will be a complete sneak attack.  You may not ever have to make that choice either. 

Wouldn't it be great though ... if you could?

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