Saturday, October 18, 2014

Not Smart Enough or Brave Enough

A few days ago I thought I might have given the wrong impression on Facebook when I remarked that I had enough pills to end my life. I have no intention of swallowing them, except one-by-one, but in this discussion of assisted euthanasia someone thought I had put away a significant amount for that purpose.

No. I like life. I enjoy my life. I appreciate my life.

But that, and the continuing story about the woman with an untreatable brain tumor moving to Oregon to avail herself of the assisted euthanasia laws in that state, sparked a thought: I could move to Oregon (or Belgium, or the Netherlands, or Switzerland) and in my condition (a wheelchair user, ventilator supported), I am certain I could find a physician who would hand over the drugs needed to kill myself.

I would only need to say, "I am irretrievably depressed, and I cannot live like this any longer."

Depression would do it, yes, for me; but not for you, unless perhaps you were depressed and had no disability.

I've heard "I couldn't live like that" more than once when someone regards my wheelchair, and therein lies the rub with assisted euthanasia as it applies to certain people with disabilities. Our lives are seen as less worthy.

Add depression, and people will have no trouble signing the ticket for a one-way trip to the other side.

But if a depressed person isn't severely disabled—not rollin' around in a wheelchair sucking on a ventilator—it becomes a tragedy. There's no need for me to name a recent example, is there?

That's why I think assisted euthanasia laws are problematic, even as I have the deepest empathy for a person trapped in a swamp of desperate pain because of a fatal disease. Many in the medical field say there's no pain that cannot be controlled by medication. I do not know that from experience. 

What I do know is that I fear a physician who has no real concept of my experience or my attitude or my emotional state counseling me about the time and circumstance for suicide.

What I do know is that our federal and state drug laws are draconian. A person in severe, long-term pain should be allowed open access to whatever narcotic might help. What happens thereafter is no business of the state.

I say this recognizing that this exposes that person to abuse, even perhaps being a victim of murder, but I think the danger to the individual is far less than being subsumed into a system wherein suicide is sanctioned option and there are mechanisms for it to be carried out.

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