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End-of-Life a Human Right?

Started by wpaolini, 06/26/2011 06:58PM
Posted 06/26/2011 06:58PM Opening Post
As you probably know, Jack Kevorkian died recently. Some believe that an individual's end-of-life decision is a human right and not something that should be against the law.

What do you think? If any of you have been in the position of having to deal with a medical decision for an aging relative, I personally think it is a fine line sometimes as if that relative left no "official" final wishes and if during an operation the doctor asks the family wishes in a difficult situation, to continue with little hope of any quality of life, or to not treat further, one could view that as indeed a "quiet" form of assisted suicide. That is just one example as there can be many shades of grey.

So why shouldn't an individual judged to be of sound mind, have the right to end life on their own terms? I don't really see much of a difference between assisted suicide and placing an elderly in hospice on morphine so they are basically not conscience until they finally pass, which can literally take weeks until they waste away. Or if they give a do-not-resuscitate order, isn't that paramount to suicide since resuscitation could end up saving them for a sizable while?
Posted 06/27/2011 03:42AM #1
What do you think?

Having watched both my parents pass, I would say it is a Human Right. Amendment 8 protect prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment but somehow there is no protection from unnecessary pain and suffering for those dying. In my view, that is a sin.

I wasn't there at the exact moment of his passing but my father died of aggressive lung cancer. Because of the chemo, his bones were breaking, his heart was damaged but it had not stopped the cancer. He was dying a slow, painful death, wasting away and on morphine. The story goes that his doctor who had been with him for many years, helped him pass with a extra dose. My father, we called him "Laddy", his dying words were spoken to my mom:

"Let me go."

My mother outlived my father by 28 years and died very slowly, she tenaciously held on, living every moment as best she could. In those last years, the good days became fewer and the bad days more until a good day was a day with just a few good moments and soon even those were rare. For those last three years, I ate lunch with her every work day, she lived a couple of miles from my office.

Those final few years, she had a slow growing lung tumor, she chose not to treat it. One day, the tumor broke through to an artery. For her, that signified the end, I remember my good by to her on that day...

She was in her chair in her living room that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. There was a trail down to the beach from her home, a trail she had hiked many times...

At this moment she was alert as she could be, frail with barely a body left but somehow she worked up a smile to say to good by to me.

With my best smile, I leaned down and kissed her on the lips, trying with all my soul not to let her know that she was bleeding from her mouth and covered in blood.

With morphine and hospice, it took her some days to finally meet the legal definition of not being alive...

Both my parents had excellent health care and when the time came, the right drugs to ease the pain. Both died in bed at home, my mother actually died in the bed she was born in 91 years before. My father died in a bed overlooking his beloved home and property, 15 acres in a most special place.

Many are not so lucky and death is a painful process with no hope, just days of agony, marking time until somehow, some way, the nightmare ends.

Jon

Posted 06/27/2011 10:11AM | Edited 06/27/2011 10:25AM #2
William Paolini said:

As you probably know, Jack Kevorkian died recently. Some believe that an individual's end-of-life decision is a human right and not something that should be against the law.

What do you think? If any of you have been in the position of having to deal with a medical decision for an aging relative, I personally think it is a fine line sometimes as if that relative left no "official" final wishes and if during an operation the doctor asks the family wishes in a difficult situation, to continue with little hope of any quality of life, or to not treat further, one could view that as indeed a "quiet" form of assisted suicide. That is just one example as there can be many shades of grey.

So why shouldn't an individual judged to be of sound mind, have the right to end life on their own terms? I don't really see much of a difference between assisted suicide and placing an elderly in hospice on morphine so they are basically not conscience until they finally pass, which can literally take weeks until they waste away. Or if they give a do-not-resuscitate order, isn't that paramount to suicide since resuscitation could end up saving them for a sizable while?

Howdy,

Here's a little background then I'll weigh in with my opinion.

My Dad lingered on in pain for months with cancer in all his joints, his brain, his colon and well pick an innard, and he had it. They moved him from Hospital to Hospice and doped him up.

The medication (morphine equivelent) had a detrimental affect on his thought process. Then he was half in & out where everything was a blur and very uncomfortable. It was very frightening for him. In his more lucid moments before he died, he asked me to take the pain medication away. He'd rather live in pain that loose his mind. I didn't blame him. I passed this along to Mom who discussed it with doctors who assured her the pain alone could cause a cardiac arrest. At that point they doped him up so much he was unconcious. That should be a crime.

I think we all agree cancer sucks. It and many other old age malodies makes the end of our lives a very difficult challenge.

There is some good news in that little saga. He was three months short of his 84th birthday, and had lived a very good life. After six days in Hospice they reduced the drugs so he could talk. He asked my Mom to hold his hand till he fell asleep and that was it.

OK, the last few minutes were about as good as it gets. The last few months were about as bad as it gets.

My Dad was a strict Catholic and believed he was meant to suffer this fate. Now he's probably rolling his eyes knowing I dissagree. The end of our lives is such a personal thing the government can just butt-out.

That's easy to say for someone 83 years old having lived a long life filled with good works. Dr. Kavorkian must have known the suffering his patients were going through. If stopping my Dad's pain could have been done by some gentle means, I would have. Yet his desires, in accordance with his beliefs, not mine, are what we respected.

I've also seen a sixteen year old girl seriously mangled in a car accident. Her parents didn't believe in doctors and carted her off on a blanket in the back of a pickup truck like a sack of onions. Small town news traveled fast. We found out she didn't make it to her own bed. Internal bleeding that might have been corrected surgically was ignored.

Our government likes simple accross the board rules. Most Prosecuting Attornies just want to rack up as many convictions as they can regardless of the unfortunate lifes of those they consider victims.

Should I become dependent on some drug or machine that keeps my body going when my mind is gone... well both my brothers and I have an agreement.

However, who would judge if we are not of sound mind. We may well be, but simply not be able to communicate. If it seems to be the end of a long life, I'm really OK with it. If it's a teenager who's life could be saved, then call 911 run the blood tests take the X-rays and do whatever it takes.

Losing one's mind if frightening, and becoming a burden to my own family is outside the scope of my work here. So... Thirty years from now, if you hear I set out to sail around the world alone and vanished. Well...you'll know.

Thanks,
Steve
8)
Posted 06/28/2011 11:25AM #3
This is a difficult topic to address. Interestingly enough I've had the pleasure of knowing two really Godly men during my life who've passed on in recent years. One was our former Pastor, the other was a missionary my wife's family has known since she was a baby. Both had a form of cancer that caused a prolonged decay of their bodies, often left them weak and sick, and eventually helpless and bedridden. It was a struggle for them to deal with as well as for others around them. Both of them were anxious to see the Lord and would have been glad if he called them sooner rather than later as their health steadily declined. There was not much question that they were going to get better, it was obvious that death was soon and inevitable. Both were willing to wait on the Lord to decide when it was time to go. Both of them struggled through some difficult years as they relied on their family to care for and nurture them. It tested their faith and strengthened it. I'm sure they often took comfort knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered most cruelly, and did so of his own volition. They continued to bless people around them, including myself, with their faith and attitude all the way up to their death.

Death is not pretty and it's not natural, God created us to live forever with him. Common sense utilitarianism would be to allow euthanasia when someone has no quality of life, but I'm not in favor of making such a judgment for myself or anyone. I believe that God has a plan for our lives and that we need to leave it in his hands. Being faithful means to follow God's way even when it looks wrong to us. This is an idealistic way of looking at it, I don't have a pat answer to fit every situation (e.g. brain dead on life support). I believe the principle of "Thou shall not murder" needs to be adhered to in the way we address the topic, our lives are not our own.
Posted 07/03/2011 09:57PM #4
Yes, I think that end-of-life is a human right. However, I'm not so sure that people in the grips of a serious illness are always of sound mind. I believe that many people get very fatalistic and depressed when they face a serious health issue. In some cases, they do not see that they can press on, endure, push through their illness and live for many more good years. So, I think there is a strong case for some governance around end-of-life issues.

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