Dying with Dignity or Choosing Your Time

Liquid Sky computer art by Louise Peacock

There is a stigma attached to ending one’s own life. Honestly, I cannot see why. I believe that everyone has the right to choose the time and place for an ending.

Let’s take a look at death. For a start, why does it upset people? Are people afraid of the actual death? Are they afraid of what comes after death? Or, are they afraid of the manner in which they die?

Certainly the state of death, or being dead should not be a frightening thing — think about it — when you die, your body eventually decomposes and returns to the earth. So? If we look at “death” on any level, animal or vegetable — the same thing happens. The “body” dies, and then decomposes. No part of the body goes to waste, and you are not harmed by any of this process, since you are long since gone.

What follows death — I suppose, in some cases people may believe that when they die they move on to another existence, and they are afraid of what that might be. Well, you certainly cannot argue about someone’s beliefs, and if people believe in some grisly afterlife, then I feel bad for them, and can understand fear of death.

Fear of the unknown, therefore may factor in to fear of death.

The manner in which you die, however, may well be a cause of fear and horror. Surely no one can fear a peaceful death while asleep, but death from a painful or terminal disease, or from an accident — that can be cause for fear.

In my opinion therefore, fear of HOW you die, makes a lot of sense.

Living may or may not make sense at any given time, but dying stupidly painfully and senselessly definitely makes no sense at all.

Imagine though, lying in a bed, unable to move hand or foot, suffering unbelievable pain, and being forced to have your most basic needs administered by some stranger in a white uniform. Loss of dignity, loss of control and loss of choice is what the do-gooders would like to impose on us.

It never ceases to amaze me that people who call themselves good Christians and caring people, would fight someone wishing to die with dignity.

In the early 1990s a brave Canadian woman named Sue Rodrigues was suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrigs) disease which slowly but surely steals the ability to move. Sue was in the advanced stages of this horrible affliction, dying in fact, and wished to end her life BEFORE getting to the point where she could no longer do anything for herself. She tried to battle legally for the right to die, but the court ruled against her 5–4. The “kind” souls who stole what time she had left — by forcing her to go through rigorous days in court, and long days of waiting, never mind the expense — should have all be sentenced to experience what they forced Sue to experience. In 1994, Sue chose to take her own life, helped by an anonymous doctor, and with a politician friend (Svend Robinson) present. Svend lobbied and tried to help Sue Rodrigues.

Years after the Sue Rodrigues battle, assisted suicide has been deemed semi legal here in Canada. Canadas’ Supreme Court recently ruled that doctors can assist patients with severe and incurable conditions. This ruling overturns the outright ban from 1993. It still has many hoops to jump through. The courts decision requires that new legislation must be written, and frankly, noting the bungling of many issues by the present government, I could see this not getting done.

The issue of euthanasia has been debated heavily over the past years. There is always the fear that unscrupulous persons could harm the disabled or the very elderly. That is apart from the moral issues. Some religious groups fiercely oppose suicide, assisted or otherwise on moral and religious grounds.

But, having had to stand by while several friends struggled with terminal illness and incredible pain, and having had to listen to them cry out for a quick end, I am fully in favour of assisted suicide.

We are born, and have to fight our way into the world kicking and screaming. We may or may not leave that way.

I say you should be free to choose the time and manner of your death.

To be, or not to be? That is the question —

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep —

No more — and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to — ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished!

Excerpted from Hamlets’ soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1 of Hamlet,



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