Thursday, June 25, 2009
Opening Pandora's Box: Assisted Suicide
Last night, very very late (I think it was around 4 o'clock in the morning), I was just about to go to bed when I cracked open Pandora's box on Twitter.
What is the current state of public opinion on assisted suicide for medical reasons?
And then I tweeted:
B/c I feel as though if I become sick and have cancer I should have the right to die.
Unprepared for the deluge of comments on this topic, I shut my computer and went out to the garage to have a cigarette (yes, I'm still smoking). Why was I awake so late? I got back from the bars around 2 am and found myself in a pensive mood. So I began writing. What I wrote down is of no importance, but the realization I had afterward is. I realized that I want the freedom to choose assisted suicide for medical reasons if I ever become terribly sick. This was an entirely personal realization; meaning, the thought was not inspired by anything but my own desire to have this right for myself.
I hadn't heard much of anything about assisted suicide in the news lately, and I began to seriously wonder what the current state of public opinion on the issue was. I wanted to know, "What do people believe?" Because in that moment, I knew deeply what I believed and how I felt.
I'm still exploring the possibilities of Twitter. The ability to tap into a vast and variegated live audience from different locations around the world, and at any hour of the day or night, is a phenomenon that draws my curiosity.
So what did people have to say on this topic? Well, I received a flurry of mixed opinions, but the majority of them leaned toward the individual's freedom to assisted suicide for medical reasons.
I was only interested in one question: "What do you think about assisted suicide for medical reasons?" In my rudimentary approach to sampling public opinion, I seemed to overlook the millions of other questions that went along with my original one; the what-ifs . . .
What if the person is not terminally ill?
What if the person has Alzheimer's and can't decide for themselves?
What if the person is "pressured" into assisted suicide?
While I understood that an abundance of hypothetical situations are enmeshed in the topic itself, I was still looking for some straight answers. These were some of the responses I got:
@salwaansart I agree with assisted suicide for medical reasons.
@dijeratic Depends where you are - some states do allow for it, all states should, in my opinion.
@JamesHancox Still mixed I think. Personally, I support a persons right to choose. Needs to be VERY carefully monitored though.
@buffysquirrel i don't think any of us needs a right to die; dying is going to happen whether we like it or not
@PaulMathers I am inclined to agree although I like to think I would not take that path personally. But as a right I'm inclined to agree
@DavidMunn Yeah, I'm in favor of euthanasia as long as the individual is making the decision without pressure.
@JackAwful You're knocking on an open door here. I was a nurse for 10 years. Kevorkian was a brave man and only the suffering know.
@crazygibbonsorry 140 characters. If someone is in a fit mental to decide state that's fine. Becomes difficult if they aren't.
@desireekoh13 Your responsibility to make decision when in right state of mind, so no one has to be responsible for making it for you.
@NightShiftNurse assisted suicide should be legal. I have seen too many patients suffer.
@StirringTrouble How you can call yourself innocent and promote assisted murder? I'm sorry, but you're off my list.
That last one really caught me off guard. I replied, "I promote the freedom; not murder."
Just as a side note, I call my blog The Blog of Innocence because I cultivate a wonder, an innocence, about the world in my writings. Because, to me, each new experience is a new reality. I feel as though I will always be innocent to life. This naivete is actually something I practice as I attempt to learn more about myself and more about others.
The interesting thing about assisted suicide for medical reasons is how diverse laws are from country to country, and within countries as well. I would like the law in Illinois to reflect my right to die for medical reasons.
I have Hepatitis C, which means there is a 50% chance I will develop liver cancer. In addition, I smoke and smoking is proven to cause lung cancer. Compound these possibilities with my already abused system from years of drug abuse.
And so, these are my concerns. What if I get sick? What if I develop cancer? Can I choose to die?
What baffles me is that people feel they can tell me I don't have that right. But this should be my decision.
My mother died of a degenerative disease. I watched her slowly lose all of her motor abilities, all of her facial expression, her balance, her ability to walk, her ability to speak.
Around forty-five years old, my mother was diagnosed with multi-system atrophy, a variant of Parkinson's. She went strong until everything was taken away from her. Her last three years on earth, she couldn't talk, couldn't walk, couldn't use the restroom by herself.
She never told me she wanted to die. But then again, she couldn't speak. How would I know? It became increasingly difficult to know her thoughts about her situation.
She was completely lucid until her death. Only in the last month, when she was unable to even eat enough food to stay alive, did she show signs of confusion.
The doctors never called my mother's illness "terminal". They called it "degenerative".
I watched my mother suffer. I saw what she had to go through for five agonizing years. And I wonder if such a thing were ever to happen to me, would I want to continue to live?
For more essays by the author, visit Escape into Life.
PHOTO ART BY MARIANNE ENGEL (via BOOOOOOM!)
Posted by Blog of Innocence at 1:44 AM
Labels: "assisted suicide", "pandora's box", "right to die", euthenasia, marianne engel, twitter