Monday, November 03, 2014

Death With Dignity - Brittany Maynard




Brittany Maynard died this past Saturday.  See here:

Brittany was an advocate for death with dignity after she discovered she had an inoperable brain tumor. 

Brittany chose the time and manner of her death. She died of doctor assisted suicide.

I first heard of Brittany's story last week.  When I read up on her plan for doctor assisted suicide I was surprised to find that five states now permit doctor assisted suicide.  See here:

While I am saddened by the untimely death of this beautiful and young woman I was also very relieved to know that doctor assisted suicide is available in some states of this country.  I did not know that until last week. 

As I have mentioned  several times before in this blog, I am not afraid of death or what awaits me after death, what I am afraid of is a slow, painful and agonizing death with no dignity. I am gay and have no close family ties.  Bill, my husband is 86 years old.  I am 73 years old.  

Both of us are in relatively good health considering our age.  We have both lived long and happy lives.  But we will die.  All of us will die.

Recently I attended the memorial service for my best friend who had  descended into the hell of a slow and agonizing death with little dignity over the past ten years.  I knew him well and I know that is not the way he wanted to go. But it all happened so gradually over the years.  He knew he had a disease (Parkinson's) for which there was no cure, only a slow degeneration. His sister died of the same disease.

The last time I visited him at the total care facility he was at I hardly recognized him as he grunted like some Frankenstein's monster trying to communicate with us.  I don't know if he was aware of us or his situation but I do know that if he was he would have chosen death over where he was at that time.  We had talked about this very situation many times when we used to ride around Rehoboth Beach in the Seventies when I used to visit him on the weekends. He had seen this happen to a neighbor of his and said "Ron, I will never let that happen to me."  But it did.

I've often wondered how would I do myself in (kill myself) if I discovered I had a terminal illness for which there was no cure. Bill and I have discussed this scenario many times.  We have both decided that we would do ourselves in.  Of course my worry is how messy it would be and what kind of scene would I leave behind.  I don't want to be like Robin Williams and have someone discover my body hanging from a rope or my dead corpse in a carbon monoxide fumed garage.  And of course the big worry was that I wouldn't be able to complete the job and end up a vegetable which is really hell on earth. 

Thus it was with an immense sense of relief that I found out that five states in this country now permit doctor assisted suicide.  What a relief.  So if my prostate cancer comes back with a vengeance and spreads to other organs of my body or my bones, I won't have to undergo years of torture from the medical establishment and painful, sleepless night before I finally have eternal peace.  

Don't misunderstand me, I plan to live a long time but none of us knows what kind of death fate has planned for us.  Correction, some of us will know. And if I do know that I'm on that downward slide towards a painful and humiliating death in which I put my loved ones through Hell in caring for me in my final days, you better believe I'm going to make my move to one of those enlightened states that permit doctor assisted suicide.

Thank you Brittany Maynard for taking this tremendous burden off of me and many others with your courageous action. And thank you to those five states who care.










12 comments:

  1. Ron,
    I am so glad you posted this. I read about Brittany's death with sadness yesterday. Sadness because such a vibrant young lady had to go way too soon. I knew that there were some states that allowed death with dignity (I just don't want to call it assisted suicide as that's not what it is.) I feel that since she knew that her time was short and chose the date it enabled her to go on with as much living as she could. The fact that her family was supportive made the story even more poignant. I wish the rest of the country would follow those progressive states. My mother chose to die when she gave up all medication and went into hospice care. She lingered way too long for her liking and suffered way too long for my liking. Although I believe that God will take me when it is my time, I would love to have the opportunity to name the day without breaking any laws. I applaud Brittany and support her decision.
    Jack

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    1. Jack,
      It is such a relief for me to know that when my times comes I will have the opportunity to make a choice how I die. I do not want to spend my final days in unbearable pain and total dependence on others and a loss of dignity. I saw that happen to my good friend Bob Mc. That will not happen to me. Before becoming aware of the five states that offered death with dignity, I thought my only option was to take an overdose of pills or lock myself in my garage and turn the engine on. Of course I was concerned with how others would find my dead body. Now I have another option, death with dignity. I am so relieved.
      Ron

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  2. Physician assisted suicide is a very complex social and legal issue. I first started studying the issue in undergraduate with with a scholar who did research on the issue. The first country to decriminalize it was the Netherlands - about 30 years ago. There are fears that it could be abused. I can understand a person making this choice and support a persons right to make that choice under the right circumstances. A lot cleaner then guns and much less grotesque then hanging (I can't imagine a worse way to die then hanging.)

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    1. David,
      I understand the concern over abuse of doctor assisted suicide. But just as we put our pets out of their misery for either old age or a terminal medical condition, we humans should have the same option at the end of our life. And as you say, a doctor assisted suicide is a lot cleaner than a gun (which was how my good friend Alice committed suicide, she put a gun in her mouth) or hanging (which I just can't imagine leaving my body for someone else to find). I want to go like Jackie Kennedy Onassis went, in my bed, with my favorite music playing and my friends and family surrounding me. And believe me, she also had a doctor assisted suicide. Now it's legal in five states, more to come.
      Ron

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  3. That her case is very sad hardly needs saying, but it's with some rejoicing that she was able, given her distressing circumstances, to depart the way she wished. Lucky young lady!

    Our government, of whatever complexion, is always running scared of the issue - anxious not to foster further hostility, (especially since equal marriage came in), from the churches which insist on controlling everybody's life whether or not they are members or even a believers.
    At our last general election one of our most progressive (and atheist) politicians was ousted from his seat (actually in my own former constituency of Oxford) by a coalition of Churches who dubbed him 'Dr Death' - because, you see, he not only supported (and still does support) regulated assisted suicide but also a woman's right to choose. For their pains and gullibility the citizens of Oxford duly elected a Church-loving conservative who, of course, denounced both those stances as well as, naturally, equal marriage.
    Yet again, if you're looking for who it is who's putting the brakes on progress, look no further than religion.

    I think and earnestly hope that assisted suicide is bound to come in in time. I only wish it was in my own time 'cos there can't be that much left of it to go!

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    1. Ray,
      See why I'm not a fan of "man-made religion." That "religion" is just an excuse from some to control others. Just as we provide a way for our pets to end their pain and suffering, we humans should have the same option. I am so relieved to know that at least five states in this country are realistic. My Mother told me when I was born, there was an old woman in the next room in the hospital who was dying of cancer. She said she screamed all day and night from the unbearable pain. That's the environment in which I was born, I don't intend that to be the environment in which I die.
      Ron

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  4. I think I mentioned it before, and you probably can get it on Netflix. "To live and die in Oregon" is an excellent documentary. I know you would enjoy it a lot Ron!

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    1. Thanks Nadege. I will get it.

      Ron

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  5. Ron

    I've never understood keeping someone alive in excruciating pain or total confusion and fear.

    Pat

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    1. It's our culture Pat. The fear of death and the default position that doctors and the medical establishment always know best. That's not true of course and I'm glad that in my lifetime people are finally beginning to get realistic about their options for a dignified and pain free passing from this life.
      Ron

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  6. I don't understand this issue. Anyone is 'free' to kill themselves; I've known lots o cases. Making it illegal hasn't stopped anyone from attempting or committing suicide.

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    1. Dr. Spo,
      While it is true that anyone is "free" to kill themselves, the risk is that you wouldn't complete the job and end up as a vegetable. Plus there is all that messiness of finding the dead body. I wouldn't want anyone to find me that way. I want to die like Bette Davis did in "Dark Victory", to the "hello angels" strains of a Max Steiner musical score and blurred photography. That's the way I want to go. Not with half my head blown off.
      Ron

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