Sunday, June 04, 2017

Whose life is it anyway?

“If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?”
That is one tough question.

If I give consent to my own death, then I won't even be here after a while to find out what happened; after all, I will be dead!

On the other hand, when the person is "Sue Rodriguez, a 42-year-old suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S." it is not merely a theoretical thought experiment.

 The NIH fact-sheet on ALS is an awfully depressing read.  What a curse to be afflicted with that disease.  Which is why Rodriguez wanted to have a doctor-assisted-suicide. And it was in that Canadian legal battle in 1993 that she said, “If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?”

The NY Times piece reports that she lost the case, which was taken up later by other patients and lawyers.  Now, this has become legal in Canada, and "the Canadian system puts doctors and nurse practitioners at its center."

The legal victory made possible 78-year old John Shields to schedule his death well into an incurable and terminal heart disease.  The report can be emotionally challenging to read; imagine then how intensely emotional it would be to watch a loved one die.  Right?

Here in Oregon, it is "20 years since Oregon voters passed the nation’s first death-with-dignity law."
Washington became the second state to adopt a death with dignity law, followed by Colorado, Vermont and the District of Columbia. Montana joined the list by court order. What may prove to be the turning point came in 2015, when the California Assembly approved a death with dignity law, tripling the number of Americans who can choose to end their lives on their own terms. More than 20 other states are now considering their own death-with-dignity laws.
Other states, including California, have patterned their laws on Oregon’s, which allows a patient with a terminal illness who is expected to die within six months or less to request life-ending prescription drugs. The request must be witnessed by two people and approved by two physicians, and the patient must be determined to be mentally sound. Last year, 204 people in Oregon requested the drugs and 133 people used them. That’s less than 0.5 percent of all deaths.
Of course, in Oregon (and in the other states too) patients have to self-administer the life-ending chemical cocktail.  Physicians are not allowed to press the syringe, unlike in the Canadian or Dutch euthanasia procedures.

The letters to the editor reflect the typical concerns and worries that we might have on this extremely difficult topic.  As one letter-writer notes there even when disagreeing with such an exit, "The growing discussion of dying well is a welcome and needed one."  Yes.

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

As you observe, an extremely difficult topic. Every side of the argument and more have a valind point of view.

Yes indeed to the last statement. More discussion certainly. Especially well before we near the end of our life span. That's when a more rational decision can be made by anybody.

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