Monday, 02 December 2013
My friend Wendl Kornfeld sent me a link to an impassioned rant from Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, about his 86-year-old father's final months. This excerpt gives you the gist of it:
”If my dad were a cat, we would have put him to sleep long ago. And not once would we have looked back and thought too soon.
“Because it's not too soon. It's far too late. His smallish estate pays about $8,000 per month to keep him in this state of perpetual suffering. Rarely has money been so poorly spent.
“I'd like to proactively end his suffering and let him go out with some dignity. But my government says I can't make that decision. Neither can his doctors. So, for all practical purposes, the government is torturing my father until he dies.
“I'm a patriotic guy by nature. I love my country. But the government? Well, we just broke up.
“And let me say this next part as clearly as I can.
“If you're a politician who has ever voted against doctor-assisted suicide, or you would vote against it in the future, I hate your fucking guts and I would like you to die a long, horrible death. I would be happy to kill you personally and watch you bleed out. I won't do that, because I fear the consequences. But I'd enjoy it, because you motherfuckers are responsible for torturing my father. Now it's personal.
[...] “I don't want anyone to misconstrue this post as satire or exaggeration. So I'll reiterate.
“If you have acted, or plan to act, in a way that keeps doctor-assisted suicide illegal, I see you as an accomplice in torturing my father, and perhaps me as well someday. I want you to die a painful death, and soon. And I'd be happy to tell you the same thing to your face.
There is more. You can read it here.
If you think, perhaps, that grief has sent Adams temporarily around the bend, I disagree. In addition to this circumstance, there are other monstrous transgressions (cutting food stamps comes to mind today) that produce in me the same kind of rage. And I feel as righteous about that rage as Adams does.
Although it was not a reason for me to choose Oregon when I moved here three years ago, it is a certain kind of comfort to know that it is one of four states where physician-assisted suicide is legal.
In fact, Oregon led the way, passing the first U.S. Death with Dignity Act in 1994. The states of Washington, Montana and, in May this year, Vermont have followed. (You can find out more about individual states here.)
You might think that having a living will or an advance directive or whatever it's called where you live will protect you from a prolonged, agonizing death. Not necessarily. Doctors and family members - maybe for reasons of misguided hope, religion or fear of guilt - override those wishes all the time.
Further, as Adams notes, our animal friends can be treated better in death than people. Just yesterday, The New York Times reported on the new-ish phenomenon of pet hospice which
”...entails ceasing aggressive medical treatment and giving pain and even anti-anxiety drugs. Unlike in hospice care for humans, euthanasia is an option — and in fact, is a big part of this end-of-life turn.”
With or without hospice care, some of you, as I, have probably wept while holding a beloved cat or dog as the veterinarian ended its suffering with an injection.
Why wouldn't we want the same for a human loved one? In most cases, the state makes that a crime.
With absolutely no evidence that doctors are dispatching large numbers of sick or old people to early graves, those who oppose physician-assisted suicide laws tend to cite the slippery slope argument. But in 2012, 77 people in Oregon chose suicide – hardly a rush to judgment (day).
As serendipity would have it, just a few days ago Pew Research Center published a new survey about end-of-life medical treatments including physician-assisted suicide. Opinion is almost evenly divided:
The thing about physician-assisted suicide is that, Sarah Palin notwithstanding, there are no death panels. In four states, it is a private, individual choice that in a sane world would have been available for Scott Adams's father.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Common Sense