This may be a deep, thoughtful subject. It’s definitely going to be a controversial one. It’s also definitely a conversation worth having. It’s a conversation about choice and the right to make your own decisions. It’s about the end of life.
I read a blog a few days ago about a husband and wife, scientists from Australia, who had decided when and what their end of life would be. They made no secret that this is what they had planned. I read it, then watched the video, then did a lot of thinking.
I thought about my pets, and how I loved them too much to let them suffer. I respected when it “was time” and let them go, though it broke my heart. Sometimes it seems we have more compassion for our pets than we do our loved ones.
And I thought about some animals in the wild, who wander off when it’s time to die, so that they can be alone and not weaken the herd or pack.
Then I thought about some people I have met in nursing homes, incapable of seeing, hearing, communicating; being kept alive on machines, mind and body long deserted.
And I thought, “At what cost?” We can make people live much longer than ever before, but at what cost? Are we keeping people alive against their will? Quality of life must factor into the equation at some point.
Taking into consideration that there is a great cost to society dealing with an aging population in nursing homes, if they do not want to continue living, why are we doing it? For the families? Because we’re afraid to lose them? Isn’t that like letting your beloved pet suffer because you’re not ready to let go? Isn’t that kind of selfish?
Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m definitely not saying “Kill all the old people”. I’m saying if someone whats to end on their own pre-defined terms, whether because of chronic illness or progressive dementia, do we have the right to force them to continue? At all costs?
I don’t know the answer. I’m not saying this is right for me and you may say it’s not right for you. I’m saying we need to think about this. While we have developed the means to keep people alive, maybe we also should be respecting people’s wishes to die – within reason.
You may notice that I’m leaving God and religion out of this discussion. MY God never wants us to suffer. Having been brought up Roman Catholic, the explanation always given when someone dies is that God called them “home” and that it was God’s “will”. Well, if someone is dying (God calling them home) and we force them to stay alive through artificial means, are we not circumventing God’s will?
We all need to think about this – it’s a huge moral and ethical question and it needs to be discussed more as a human right.