At age 74, I am healthy, happy enough and curious about what each new day might bring. I am also grateful that I live in one of five U.S. states that allows physician-assisted suicide.
It's not something I dwell on and I certainly was not thinking about Oregon's Death with Dignity Act when I moved here five years ago. But it comforts me at this time of life to know it is there if it comes to pass that I want it.
When we get old, we are more likely than in younger years to be diagnosed with terrible diseases – sometimes treatable, other times not so much. I like knowing that if I become terminally ill and if my life, in that circumstance, becomes too painful or otherwise unbearable, I will not be required by law to suffer.
In no way am I eager to reach that impasse. I like life and hope I'm here for a good while longer. But any old person who doesn't understand that getting through old age unscathed by a serious health issue or two or more is fooling herself.
In all the five U.S. states and the other countries that allow doctor-assisted death, applicants must clear a high bar before being granted the right to die. And although I would rather see the choice available everywhere, that is generally a good thing at least for awhile as we debate the issue publicly and politically.
Even though I am mostly content and satisfied, I have periods of despair and melancholy. (Don't most people?) I consider them normal but who knows if at some future juncture I might, during a dark day or two, think to end it all.
It is then that I appreciate the barriers to the permission to end my life as much as I am glad for the choice.
Regarding a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or other dementia when there is usually a remaining period of lucidity before you lose yourself, I have a running joke with a friend. Or maybe it isn't a joke; we laugh about it but maybe we are deadly serious: since we both like living, we repeatedly ask ourselves if we will be able, in the case of dementia, to gauge the “sweet spot” between still functioning enough to arrange for physician-assisted suicide and being too far gone to be allowed to make the choice.
Oy. A tough one. What else is there to do about such a potential future except laugh.
These thoughts have been rolling around in my head over the past couple of days since I viewed a short, 21-minute documentary from The Economist titled 24 and Ready to Die.
A shocking statement due to the young woman's age compounded by the fact that she is not terminally ill.
She lives in Belgium where doctor-assisted death is legal. She tells us that she can recall at age three not wanting to be here anymore and says she has suffered debilitating depression pretty much ever since during which...
Never mind. Just watch. I didn't know even that much about Emily when I looked at the video and there is no accompanying print story with explanations. Even though she is much younger than most of us are, she gave me a lot to think about as “death with dignity” and “right to die” legislation is expanding enough that it is no longer an anomaly.
Comments are disabled where the video is available on the YouTube page and on the page at The Economist so I am looking forward to reading what you, TGB readers, have to say.