As a person living with Multiple Sclerosis, and hence living with a very uncertain future, I have a deep interest in the topic of ‘dying with dignity’. I consider the act of ending my life at a time of my own choosing as a basic human right which no religion, state or government should be allowed to take away from me.
Of course, people commit suicide every day in the US and around the world. And I have always thought that it is usually a desperate act, prompted by helplessness and suffering that simply is too much to endure. But ending one’s life as an alternative to suffering the unending ravages and unbearable pain of a devastating illness, is in no way an act of desperation.
In fact, it is an act of courage and should be supported by society the same way we have long accepted euthanasia as a merciful alternative to the unnecessary suffering of a beloved pet. Only here, with physician assisted suicide, it is the human being him/herself who determines IF and WHEN to die. This is the complete opposite of a decision that many fear may be made by a second party on behalf of someone who cannot express their wishes.
In a previous post about how “To live and die with dignity” I shared Craig Ewert’s courageous story of how he travelled to Switzerland in order to find the assistance he needed to die his way and at a time of his own choosing. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/suicidetourist/
It seems clear to me that anyone who is brave enough to watch the documentary of Greg’s struggle with ALS and his final decision to die, will also witness the strength and the dignity of his final choice.
However, it is not the premeditated dying that is important here, but rather, it is the legal CHOICE people ought to have, that matters. Even if the right to die were well established and acknowledged by the power of law, not everyone would choose this path.
In his case, no financial or scientific means are spared to enable him to continue his work.
He also is an inspiration to me and I admire him for his straight forward and unsentimental way of looking at life. In his recent book “Grand Design,” he says: “There is no heaven or after-life …, that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” He also states that he is not afraid of death, but adds: “I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”
So there you have it: more food for thought.
I’d like to close by thanking Dr. Kevorkian for his committment to human dignity and by posing the following question:
What gives a society the right to deny any person a choice in determining how much suffering is enough? And WHEN and HOW to die?