Sunday, June 2, 2013

How To Die in Oregon

I watched the documentary How To Die in Oregon which is about compassionate assisted suicide, or death with dignity in the face of a terminal illness. I would really like to discuss it here, so please feel free to comment and hopefully we can share our thoughts and feelings on this issue.

You can click on the link and it will take you to the trailer. Its also available on Netflix as an instant download. I cried through the whole thing, it was very emotional and its filled with lots of ideas to think about that trail out into so many other issues like religion, morality, faith, politics, money...so I am not necessarily recommending that everyone rush right out and watch it. Its a heavy thought provoker.

First let me say that I have never been in favor of death by our own hands even when very very sick. For the most part. It is contrary to my faith, and to my efforts to let go of control and to trust a power greater than myself to be in charge. It smacks of pride and arrogance....as in, who am I to decide the time my heart beats its last beat?

However, as I watched this movie, and the people who were choosing to die by their own hand at the time they chose, I could understand how that could feel like it was the right choice. In the face of terminal illness where there is no hope of recovery, where you are looking at weeks or months and sometimes years of suffering and humiliation....I can certainly understand choosing to drink their toxic mix and head out while they are still able to speak and share their thoughts with those they love, to not have to endure the humiliation of having their diaper changed by their adult kids, or carry the concern of becoming a financial burden to their families.

A couple of years ago when my mom was so sick and dying, she said she had always wished that assisted suicide had been legal. Her take was that when our dogs get old and unhealthy we take them in to be "put down." Why can't we give that same consideration to our elderly or terminally ill family members?

I think when you are faced with months of suffering laid out before you, you may have an understanding of what is really important at that point....more so than someone speaking about it and sharing their opinions who has never faced their own passing. Its one thing to have great moral convictions about this issue when you have never laid in a bed, in severe pain, while your adult son or daughter or your wife or husband has had to wash the excrement off of your butt while you lay on your side with your hiney all open and exposed, fresh out of your very own adult sized diaper.

With that said, I am glad it was illegal where I live when my mom was dying because I couldn't have done it. I couldn't have helped her to do that. Go ahead...call me selfish.

The biggest obstacle I face in regards to this issue is my faith that God can and does work good and miraculous things through our suffering. Ours and theirs. I have watched families heal and come together during their parents last days. I have watched healing take place between father and daughter as she did exactly the above....including diaper rash ointment slathered everywhere it needed slathering. I have watched people thank God for being there with them during the pain of cancer. Reassuring us....the family and caregivers that they are not alone, not afraid, that its all ok. These are beautiful experiences that have changed lives (my life) and if the patient had chosen to walk away before nature and God had deemed the time, those lessons would have been missed.

So while there are some aspects of being allowed to make this final decision that do resonate with me, that I truly can understand, I just don't know. Its counter to every other aspect of my life choices. Walking humbly, trusting in God to sustain our spirits as we make our final journey, trusting that there is a plan that I am unaware of, letting nature takes it course as it will. 

Thoughts?
Annette


6 comments:

Signe said...

I have not watched the video, so I don't know the stories, but I do believe life is valuable at every stage and event. I think your second to the last paragraph explains it best. Who knows when people are finally ready to spiritually find God? Maybe, like addiction, they have to finally be forced to view life away from the material side and experience the human side to finally understand why we're all here. It may work both ways, the person with the illness as well as the caretakes. I was uncomfortable with illness and hospitals until I read Tuesdays with Morrie. That book helped me to see a whole different perspective, just in time, I might add,to be able to help my mother when she suddenly went into the hospital and needed help (long story) but I was able to care for her because the male nurse made it uncomfortable for her. She wasn't terminal but still, the same coming to terms with the human experience at it's most basic was involved. Anyway, to me, life is always precisous, maybe not neat and tidy, but valuable. In my opinion, if you have a choice, death is never an option.

Annette said...

I have just seen too many miracles....not the crippled get up and walk types of miracles, but healing in spirit, people released from tremendous inner burdens, and that daughter that cleaned up her dad...that is quite the story. He had been a tyrant in many ways, angry, alcoholic...he left this earth with all of his relationships in tact and filled with love. He was a changed person from suffering through the humiliations of being dependent on others. The daughter shared that taking care of him was one of the most honorable things she feels she had ever done. Theirs was a beautiful transformation and I have to wonder if those things would have happened if he had taken action into his own hands and rushed things along. God's timing in perfect. I do believe that.

Mary Christine said...

I believe that God gives and takes away our lives. When we decide to take our own, we commit the ultimate sin. The ultimate ego act. Please remember, this is me, a woman who has fought the urge to kill myself for nearly half of the last year. Thank God I trusted God and kept on.

Annette said...

Awwww Mary. I think as unpopular as the idea of taking ones own life being a prideful/egocentric/arrogant act may be....I think it is accurate. We are saying that we know better. We are choosing to not live in faith that God will sustain us through everything...even excruciating pain and suffering. That is tough and I think it would be one of those times where you don't receive the grace and courage until the moment you need it.

Lolly said...

Five years ago my beautiful 48 year old sister contracted an illness that left her in a vegetative state. Feeding tube in place, respirator connected....that is what was keeping her alive. That in my opinion is not living. Medical intervention can sometimes go too far. I wished I had had the courage to pull that plug for her. She NEVER would have wanted to live that way. It was awful and embarassing, and so emotionally painful to watch the deterioration of her body. It took us 6 months of paperwork to get her removed from the feeding tube and then 2 weeks to die after being admitted to Hospice. Personally, I believe she died six months prior and it was ONLY the medical intervention at the hospital that was keeping her alive. It's still hard for me to figure out where God is/was in all of this.

Annette said...

Oh Lolly. I am so sorry. How painful that all must have been. In my work I have seen how very important it is to have advanced directives in place before anyone really needs them. Of course my husband and I keep meaning to get that done...but we haven't either. Its not a priority until something like what happened to your sister happens.
I am a big "let nature take its course" type of person. I would not want all that your sister had done either. But a lot of people do!