Note: This is an editorial from our staff member, Elizabeth Uslander. She openly shares her feelings about the current controversy and the fight to keep the End of Life Option Act legal in California.
Death is as much a part of life as breathing.
How people die is indicative of how they lived only in so much as there will be a moment, or series thereof, wherein each choice that was made culminates in one last decision – when and how to take their last breath.
There are places throughout the world where, for many years, there have been mechanisms to dictate the end of a person’s life within legal bounds. The standards are common, though undoubtedly nuanced per each culture. In some places, interminable suffering defined by the individual is the marker for freedom, in other places terminal illness with specified short-term prognosis. In some areas, there are movements toward the most efficient and effective way to maneuver death into a person’s life, in others the options are effective but limited.
In the United States, there is no federal precedent for Death with Dignity and very little conversation on the subject. When addressed, people often conjure the image of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, and labels of physician-assisted suicide. Some may be familiar with the fact that Oregon has, for over 20 years, afforded the opportunity for people who qualify to end their suffering in accordance with the law. The case of Brittany Maynard is more commonly known now, thanks to her courage and grace, and the support and love of her family.
Many of us have witnessed the end of life experience that is so common in this country, thanks to the magnificent leaps and bounds of medical knowledge and technology. Our parents, or perhaps a spouse, have been through the wringer of doctors appointments and tests and treatments, over and over, perpetually being told that this one thing or that other thing could make it just a little better, and at what expense?
How often do our loved ones end up in facilities, cared for by others because we have neither the time nor the financial resources to keep them at home, in a familiar environment and in the good company of those they cherish?
To The Lifers:
Where are the social structures to support such care? Where is the charitable funding by so-called life-oriented organizations for 24/7 caregiving and in-home medical treatment, much less other life-enhancing treatments? Tell me how you would like to live and die, and if you are willing to force that choice upon another human being, tell me why you do not bend over backward to support that person’s quality of life.
In my yet-young life, I have seen death in many forms. I can tell you which ones hurt me most, and I can offer reports on those I have witnessed.
But I could not presume to tell you how you should choose to die, nor how your loved ones should have to care for you. And I hope that by the time I am in a position to make such a choice, that you will not have won the right to tell me how to die.
To The Undecided:
Have you seen death? Have you been with a human being as the last breath is taken?
What does that bring to mind?
How many of us have seen the impact such a choice has on those who seek resources and support at the end of their lives?
It is, in my opinion, the right of all humans to live and die as they see fit, as long as they do not harm others.
If you could see the peace that the End of Life Options Act brings not just to suffering individuals, but also to their loved ones alike, you would know how wrong we are to regulate the life and death of another human being.
Courtesy Photo: Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash