Postaday2011 – Committing suicide

Should you have the right to end your own life and if so would you appreciate a little help ? Now there is a thorny subject.

I have heard old people say they wish they weren’t here anymore particularly after their partner has died along with other siblings and friends. People who are housebound, suffered from incurable diseases of the mind and body – Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia or Parkinson’s live difficult and often lonely lives. I read a comment last year about a woman with dementia who woke up every morning next to a man she did not recognise as her husband, to all intentional purposes a stranger. How frightening must that be?

These people in my opinion deserve the right to assisted suicide, but who is going to make the decision as to when the time is right if they can longer do it for themselves. A popular comment I’ve heard is that if the person was a cat or dog you would do the decent thing, take it to the vet and let it go in a dignified way. Watching someone you love having their brain destroyed by a disease for which there is no known cure must be a very difficult thing. If you love them you don’t want them to suffer and yet could you be the one to end their life. Difficult isn’t it?

When my mother-in-law was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it was a relief to know why she had such difficulty remembering anything. As the disease progressed it became more of a challenge and when she was finally admitted into hospital we were told that rather than the gradual decline associated with the illness we thought she had it was vascular dementia. The difference is that with the latter your brain goes along nicely for a while and then bang a mini stroke destroys another part of you. Because of her condition she could not go home so she moved to a place where they could care for her properly 24/7. Not an easy decision but the right one. Watching her deteriorate over the next seven months was not a pleasurable experience and if we could have ended her life with dignity without fearing recriminations from the courts it might have been a consideration.

I’m not eighty yet so I don’t know how I will feel when I’m nearer that age so at the moment I think people should have the right to commit suicide, it can’t be an easy decision to make. What we need to do is prevent people from reaching such depths of despair that this appears to be the only option. Euthanasia is more tricky, right now I’m in favour, ask me again when I’m older.

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4 thoughts on “Postaday2011 – Committing suicide

  1. Youre right,it is a thorny subject.In one respect I feel that suicide is an extremely selfish action as it affects everyone around you and often leaves your friends and family feeling overwhelming guilt and confusion.On the other hand no one can truly know what another individual feels and what they have to do to get through the day.Having worked in long term care for over 10 years I can say that it is indeed heartbreaking to watch someone decline from Alzheimer’s.Would they choose to end their life before the final stages manifested themselves?Most assuredly so.On more than one occasion I had one of my residents ask me to end it for them.Did I do it?No,but not from lack of compassion or understanding for what they were going through or what they faced..but because of the legal backlash that would follow.I once was in the room of a woman who was severly contorted(to the pint of being unable to feed herself or walk,completely incontinent and dependant on others for everyting).Her son,who usually came in every morning to feed her breakfast had been late that day and was explaining to his mother that he had gone to the vet to have his dog(who had advanced cancer) put down.His mother looked him in the eye and said(this was the first time I had ever heard her speak)that he had more compassion and love for his dog than he did his own mother.She was suffering amd in pain all the time.She could do nothing for herself.All she wanted was peace but she was forced to stay and endure.Sad isnt it?

    1. Thank you for taking the time to post your comment and I totally agree it is both sad and very depressing. Watching someone deteriorate is never gong to be pleasant. It is the people who care for them who make the difference. In light of the current problems one of the major care home providers is having I hope this will encourage a change in the way we provide care for the elderly and the value we put upon it.

      I take your point that those left behind to pick up the pieces after a suicide will be severely traumatised by the event, I used to think that it was a selfish act. I have latterly come to believe that it requires great bravery to take one’s own life. I fully appreciate that most people are considered to be in an “unbalanced” or irrational state of mind when they do it but to step out into the path of a train… It doesn’t bear thinking about.

  2. Life is the most precious and mysterious force in our world, experienced in so many different forms, varieties and intensities. At best, we appreciate and revel in it. At it’s worst, it draws us into a world of sorrow, pain, suffering and loss. Man devotes a significant portion of available resources and time to exploring life, but comes no closer to understanding the life’s essence. Given the unknowable foundation of life’s forces, should we really take it upon ourselves to make the determination as to when life ends?

    I understand the desire to not feel pain, or gain release from a horribly debilitating condition. I know all too well the despair one feels when they have to sit helplessly by as a loved one suffers. But for me personally, I could not step into Death’s role, either on behalf of someone else, or to end my own suffering. That’s a job, to put it simply, that is “way, way above my pay grade”. Legal issues aside, no two people are alike, so there’s no way to establish a standard for terminating a life. Invariably, you’d have situations where life was terminated under conditions that many others would believe did not warrant such final activity. Could anything but chaos result from that?

    1. An interesting comment Mark and thanks for posting it.
      I agree that life is our most precious gift and that it should be treated with immense respect. However I think there is a time when helping someone to die is the right course of action. It may not be something you feel you could do at the moment but depending on circumstances it may be the most rewarding act you are ever called upon to perform.
      I hope I never find myself in a position where I have to make that decision.

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