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Thursday, July 16, 2009

To be, or not to be....




A couple of days ago, a famous conductor and his ballerina wife from England, a devoted couple, decided to take their lives. One was ill; the other was not. Together, they traveled to a clinic in Switzerland where they could receive assistance for their decision.

Here in Oregon, just a few months ago, we voted for a law that allows people, at the end of their lives, to make decisions about dying. It passed with a good majority.

This state will also fine you stiffly if you hit an animal on the highway and drive off. It will fine you heavily if you step on grassland that protects snowy plovers. It will fire you from public office if you hunt or fish without a license, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. It has more protection for wild life than most other states.

When life is coming to an end, what is there to do? I want to make that decision if I'm conscious. If I'm not, I want to leave directives so my family doesn't have to fight over what is the best thing to do. At a point when my life is not worth living, I want to give my goodbyes to the world and go peacefully into that dark night.

48 comments:

Man of Roma said...

As you know I have written something on this theme too, which I find interesting. Some readers have stopped commenting at my blog after my writing on that. I have followed the debate on this couple. Some people in Europe were outraged, others weren't.

I found this story terribly romantic. I told my wife, and she agreed. It is about love, not about death, in my opinion. When life becomes not worth living, going away peacefully doesn't sound so bad to me, it sound sweet and peaceful, as you said. And going together with the person of your life, it sounds even sweeter. Although I have respect for those who feel differently about it, I noticed that the opposite is often not true.

I'll take one month of break from blogging. It will be my vacation, although I cannot leave Rome. I might comment though here and there.

Hope all is well with you Rosaria

G

Bogey said...

For 4 years I worked in a hospital where one of the wings was dedicated to the continuous care of geriatric patients. None of whom had any physical or mental capacity remaining. I watched the nursing staff routinely bathe and feed these helpless souls who lay there blankly staring at the ceiling. If this were to ever become my existence, I want no part of it. What's the point? We all know that life is precious and not to be taken lightly. However, when life stops becoming about living and merely about being, we should have the option of well, opting out.

pink dogwood said...

At a point when my life is not worth living, I want to give my goodbyes to the world and go peacefully into that dark night.

I agree with you 100%

Brian Miller said...

when my time comes i want it to happen. i would rather not be kept alive by a machine. tough ont he fam i know, but each of our days are numbered....

Jennifer said...

I absolutely agree that a person should have the right to decide for him or herself, and applaud your state for taking the step to allow it.

For myself however, I am not yet ready to consider it. I know it's coming, yes, one day. Old Age. Illness. I recognize I may change my mind, but right now my life feels too precious to take away any moment of it, even if painful. It seems life will be gone too quickly as it is.

potsoc said...

My wife and I have included a clause both in our testament and in our power of attorney for our children: should we, after an accident or a serious illness, become unable to take decisions on required special treatments such as respirators or other machines and there would be no hope of making us better that such treatments should be refused and let nature take it's course.
However none of us are thinking suicide assisted or not, legal or not. I do understand how some people would and will, but it is not, as of now,our cup of tea.

Maggie May said...

I'm not sure what I think about this.
I think it is up to the person who is suffering to make the decision. Of course there might be some families who try to bump you off or pressurize you to take your own life.
Who knows if you might change your mind when you get to this stage and not be able to communicate it to anyone.
Lots of grey areas.
However there should always be the choice and in England people have to travel to the Continent, where it IS legal. we have no choice as it was turned down in parliament.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

It is so often such a contentious topic, isn't it - but I believe it is ultimately a decision that can and should be made only by the individual who's life is concerned. I don't want other people making those decisions for me - after all, it's not their life.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Rosaria, such a difficult one...

That same clinic in Switzerland last year hosted the death of a once-promising young rugby player who had been badly injured on the field and who had struggled to come to terms with his disabilities...

I felt very (to use an American term) conflicted about the choice he had been empowered to make at such a young age, and at, who knows, perhaps a too-early stage of coming to terms and living within his physical abilities...

I would not ever wish that for my son of the same age, nor would I wish to support him in that decision...

I could probably not say the same about this couple...

Helen said...

amen, amen ......

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

I do think I would want that option..but I see the difficulty in allowing this to happen in general. Would there be a lower age limit? I am not sure how it would work in practice but in theory I'm all for it.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I spent the last five years of my life caring for my dad, his quality of life kept spiraling down, down, down. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it would. That said, he had lost his cognitive powers and the ability to see what was happening. He had a saying, "I know where I am, but I don't know where I'm going."

He would have been horrified if he knew how positively unrecognizable he had become.

But, we don't often know what will happen. This is difficult subject matter, to be sure. I never, ever want my children to go thru what I did with Dad. Maybe I'll move to Oregon. Back where I came from!

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

As the decades numbered on my birthday calendar, I decided to adopt Frank Sinatra's song, "I am going to live till I die."

As a 26 year survivor of cancer - I have already faced death - and decided I would, after being diagnosed, Face Life - it has been a full journey of Gratitude and Praise! I choose to BE - and each day anew I am Birth Eternal, holding to Praise and Gratitude.

Best of LIFE to all!

trousers said...

Gently but firmly put, and I agree.

I'm not without my concerns about this (nor am I suggesting that you are either) - but they are more to do with the details of the law and its application, not to mention the potential for abuse. Given that I don't know the details of the law in this case then I'll go no further on that.

But in terms of what you're saying and the perspective you have, then yes - I'm with you on this.

JennyMac said...

Such a great point...let people exit in dignity. If they have the faculties to decide, why not allow it?

Lori ann said...

When we had something like this come close to home, it led my husband and I to decide a few things. I wrote a post about this last year called The story of James and Betty. It's a tragic true story about literally taking your own life in your hands. If you like you can read it at:

http://loritimesfive.blogspot.com/2008/11/story-of-james-betty.html

Pyzahn said...

Going peaceful is really the ideal, isn't it. People chide me for being so proactive in my healthcare/wellness regime.

"Ah, you could get hit by a bus," they say.

Yes. If I go quickly, that's okay. I just don't want to be tied to a wheelchair drooling all over myself.

Bless Oregon for being so progressive.

Reya Mellicker said...

I read about that couple. I don't know how to feel about it. We're at such a bizarre place in the science of medicine, where we can keep people alive long past the point where quality of life is still in place. For those people maybe yes it would be OK to put them down.

But to be of sound mind and body, even if you're old, and pull the plug because you just don't want to do it anymore? I don't know, Rosaria, I really just don't know.

I'll be interested to read other comments on this post. Very provocative. Thank you!

Woman in a Window said...

This couple went...together.
God, my heart is breaking
and singing,
at the same time.

Yes, let us have our choices.

Beth said...

I totally understand. We are currently having a lot of difficulty learning how to handle my mother-in-law. She barely knows who we are any more.

Nancy said...

I love Oregon.

Nancy said...

But I also have to say - after caring for family members that were helpless before they died, the lessons learned in humility and unconditional love were mine to learn, they just provided the opportunity.

Shadow said...

i agree with you. if there's quality of life, live it. if not, what is the point? i prolongs your pain and those of your family and friends who have to watch it happen.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Everyone should have the right to die with dignity. One of Kurt Vonnegut's earliest short stories was about that right. Oregon seems to be leagues ahead of other states on many fronts.

willow said...

My thoughts, exactly.

lakeviewer said...

Man of Roma--Yes, it is a timeless love story. We do want that kind of love, don't we?

Bogey--Exactly my point too: if I become so helpless that I can't do anything for myself, and I'm not even communicating my wishes or my thoughts, I'm no longer interested in that life. Medical science has too many tricks to keep up alive; until their tricks keep you above a vegetative state, I pass.

Pink Dogwood--It is about quality, isn't it? And about maintaining dignity too. I do not want my grandchildren horrified and mortified when they are dragged over to visit me.

Brian--My children, who are your age, don't want to listen to our final directives. It is hard for youth to accept death as inevitable.

Jennifer--Life is precious. We don't want to take our lives; we want to live fully until the very last minute. Thinking about those last minutes in a rational way, understanding the inevitability, the difficulty of that decision becomes easier.

Costo--we have the same directives--let nature take its course without heroic measures. That's the statement that we can be comfortable about. You know, at that stage, we are helping ourselves to the very end by making decisions way in advance. Actually taking some medicine to end pain I can accept. I'm not good with pain.

Maggie May--It is about choices, and about who makes those choices. I want to spare my children those heart wrenching decisions that will kill their spirit no matter what. I want them to know that it is o.k. to allow nature to finish its course. And with the cost of health care as it is in my country, my children would have to mortgage their homes to keep us on respirators.

Absolute Vanilla--The decision at the very end is not usually made by the individual. He/she is too sedated, too incapacitated, too gone to decide. That's the reason you make your wishes known in advance, both to your family, and to your doctors. Your choice is only yours when you are rational and healthy.


Fhina--The two adults who went to Switzerland were rational; the youth was not. He was depressed and out of his element. His family should have stepped in; I bet the clinic tried. Perhaps, there should be a lot of counseling before those decisions are made.
I'm talking about the end of a life when a life is maintained artificially, as in the case of elderly people who have become dependent on respirators, and other machines to keep a semblance of life. If those machines were turned off would they live? Would they know they are living? It is not so easy a decision to make at that point.

lakeviewer said...

Helen--Thanks for your thoughts.

Reasons--Yes, theory is always easier than practice. You have raised very keen points for us all to consider.

Elizabeth--Your experience will help you understand the theory. Oregon is a great place to live in. I'm sure you miss the trees, the green, the rivers, and the rain.

Rose Mary--You are a survivor and a winner. May you live a very long and fruitful life. Thanks for adding your thoughts to this morbid conversation.

Trousers--Great point you make. Any law is as good as its interpretations; and it can be grossly misapplied; or it can become a tool in somebody's scheme. These are the dark sides of the issues. Very thoughtful.

Jenny Mac--Good to have you here. I'm not usually conversing about these dark thoughts; but hey, it's part of being human.

Lori Ann-- I shall visit your post and read that story. Thanks for taking time to add your thoughts. Are you all recovered? You must be with all that hiking you are adding to your routine? You and hubby will live to be 100 because of your life style and brio.

lakeviewer said...

Pyzahn--Good for you, running around, showing everyone how to stay active and healthy. I'm getting my husband to walk with me now that his doctors are putting their feet down. When people become ill they tend to retreat and cocoon. Our bodies are meant to move and work hard. Great resolve.

Reya--Your losing Jake was a great lesson in dying. We don't see death up close and personal any more. Our elders are sent away-or live far-and we can't imagine the pain and indignity they might be suffering at the end. It's a subject we don't want to entertain.
I agree with you that if one is sound of mind, ending life should not be an option.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"At a point when my life is not worth living, I want to give my goodbyes to the world and go peacefully into that dark night."

I agree. Let's hope that peace.

lakeviewer said...

Woman--Erin, you romantic you! It takes us back to Romeo and Juliet.

Beth--The experience with your mother in law will help you reach your decision way before you need to.

Nancy--Yes, in those moments we learn humility and grace and unconditional love. WE also learn the fragility of life, the preciousness of it.

Shadow--We can't accept a life that reduces all that we have been to a state of vegetation, ugliness and putrid smells. If we can have a choice, we want better.

Trish and Rob--Thanks for visiting-though this post is like walking in a party that has debauched away-and leaving your thoughts. Kurt Vonnegut's stories ugh? I shall have to revisit them.

Willow--Sorry about this subject, after your celebratory mood. Thanks for visiting.

Moannie said...

All the while I can see the faces of my loved ones, and hear their voices, and understand what they are saying, I will cling on to life like a Barnacle. If I am demented[my worst nightmare] and incontinent[my second worst nightmare] do with me what you will.

Fire Byrd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fire Byrd said...

I so wish we had a place like Dignitas over in the UK, more and more people are travelling to Switzerland from here.
The people who use this service are not idiots they have thought long and hard about what they're doing. And I find in anathama that they should have to travel abroad and if their relatives go with them to say good bye at the last moment then they risk arrest on their return to the UK.
If I need that sort of service I want it available here and I want my sons to be safe if I so choose to end my life this way.

star8278 said...

Being only 30 yo. I can honestly say I haven't given much thought to the idea. But since becoming pregnant the thoughts have crossed my mind once or twice about the complications in child birth that could happen, though I pray they don't. And its something I have yet to discuss with my husband. It's a hard topic, and I respect anyone who can say steadfastly that they know what they want. Because honestly, how can anyone ever, REALLY know when its their time. People in comas for years awake, crippled can walk... we just can never know God's plan for us. So it's hard to say when its time don't fight for me, let me go.

lakeviewer said...

Midlife jobhunter--this is way too dark for you to think about on your way up corporate ladder. How are your prospects where you are? Hope things start moving. Thanks for visiting.

Moanie--If you can hear then talk about you, you are still in charge. My thoughts are for that stage when I have no idea that I am still alive.

Fyrebird--I don't want to go anywhere else at that time; I want to be home, in my favorite chair. Of course, if I don't know what's happening, who cares?

Star--You're much too young to plan that far ahead. You have to pass the middle life crisis first. Enjoy.

Room Service ~ Decorating 101 said...

At least you are learning...lol loved your comment today. Have a great weekend. v

Zip n Tizzy said...

Such dificult decisions for family members to make. Especially when they're struggling with letting go.
I think it's really important that people be allowed to create directives and that they be followed without fear of suit. It takes the pressure off family members, (It won't stop grief... we have to deal with loss at some point regardless,) and allowes doctors to follow our individual wishes. I would not want to be trapped in a lifeless body that was being kept alive by machines.

Renee said...

It is not easy to do. When the time comes, it is not easy.

Love Renee xoxo

Saretta said...

Well, that only seems fair!

Man of Roma said...

Yes, Rosaria, we want and need that kind of love.

Dave King said...

Here, here, that is exactly how it should be. Why, in a supposed democracy, will they not allow what the majority so clearly wants?

Phoenix said...

I am a strong believer in the fundamental right of the person to do what he deems best. Sometimes, not all see eye to eye, but eventually it is the person who has to live the life, so the decision to peacefully end an otherwise painful life should lie with the person.

Kikit said...

How do I want to die? I wrote something about this at my multiply account but opted not to share it to everyone. After reading this article, I think I might post it soon.

Anyway, like you, I also want a peaceful death. It's probably the ultimate gift a person can receive.

Amy said...

Wow! I've been traveling for 10 days and my husband and I have been having conversations about this very subject. As I'm sitting in the car and tryng to catch up on my blog reading, yours is the second post on this subject that I've read.

I read this article in the paper while on vacation and told my husband about it. We both agree that when we know we've reached the end of our functionality, we'd like to have a big going away party for family and friends and then go off somewhere nice and comfortable and slip peacefully into the night.

It seems such a more peaceful and dignified way to go rather than suffering through the systematic failure of the human body.

Natalie said...

Move over! I am coming to Oregon.!xx♥

The Things We Carried said...

It is cruel to hold people hostage to this life when they are no longer in their own minds and machinery keeps them here. I could not bear to be left like this, and yet countless human beings live there for endless days.

I do not believe in assisted suicide, nor do I believe in keeping machines turned on...

marc aurel said...

In Ontario we can sign a "Do Not Resuscitate" order, but we still cannot go to a clinic specifically to terminate our lives, even if we are are in untreatable pain, or if doctors certify that we will die within six months anyhow. Oregon is well advanced on many issues, it seems. Must be the air.
Personally, as a fringe Buddhist, if I can bear the pain, I would like to go into death fully conscious, but the basis of freedom is that we should not force on others what we have decided is best for ourselves.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

I agree with your summation. I have a form with my husband & doctor explaining what I want should I be incapacitated... no extraneous efforts to prolong a life that is no longer a life. Oregon is so forward-thinking. Texas would never go for such a law. Great post.