Remember the Terry Schiavo tragedy in the public sphere? It was awful. Here was a young woman in an irreversible vegetative state for years, and Republican senators in DC adamantly stood against pulling her plug, in order to defend the sanctity of human life. They were ok with wars and killing, prisons and killing, cops and killing, but no pulling the plug nor aborting fertilized eggs. Nutcases!
Their leader at that time, Bill Frist, even made his own diagnosis--without having ever met the patient! I tell ya, the GOP has been home to nothing but nutcases ever since that newt-led revolution in 1994.
Finally, after 15 years in a vegetative state, Schiavo died. By then I was already an Oregonian. And had already authored an op-ed on the state's Death With Dignity Act. I wrote that in late 2002, soon after I moved to Oregon in response to the Bush administration's effort to overturn the Oregon law. That effort was led by a religious fanatic John Ashcroft, who was the Attorney General.
The nutcase Republicans in DC gave it their best shot, but Oregon's law prevailed. A couple of weeks ago, it was the law's 20th anniversary.
In Oregon, use of the law has steadily grown. Last year, it happened 133 times. Nearly 1,200 people have died using the law in the last two decades. A vast majority cited loss of autonomy as their main reason.You remember how horrible it was before the Oregon law passed? Like this one:
In 1990, a Portland woman, Janet Adkins, traveled to Michigan where Dr. Jack Kevorkian helped her use his lethal injection device in his Volkswagen van. Her death inflamed a national debate.Kevorkian was later found guilty for his assistance in a number of cases. He served time too, which is unfortunate. Almost nine years in prison, as an old man himself. But, boy did he stand up for his beliefs!
I understand that not everybody will be ready to exit the planet as I am. I love life. This existence is simply fascinating. I hate the very idea that I will miss out on everything that I cherish. But, like every saint and sinner who ever existed, I too will die. A lonely event that will be. Living like today could be the last day ever makes clear what my priorities are, how I should spend my time, and what I need to plan for. Which is also why I don't have much in my bucket-list.
Here today, gone tomorrow! You should even think in terms of writing your own obituary. At the very least, we could all benefit from having the most difficult conversations: Talk to the next of kin and make clear one's end of life choices. After all, we talk shit all the time. We have time for sports. We talk endlessly about the shittiest human ever in the White House. We talk forever about the weather, for heaven's sake. We definitely have time for this important conversation.
If you want some ideas on how to go about having such a talk with your people, check out the resources here.
In the meanwhile, enjoy the precious gift of life!