Reality Check: Terminal Choice

Some choices have longer-lasting consequences than others.

The choice of a career, schooling, or home has consequences. The choice of a spouse can have life-changing consequences. Even choices that may seem trivial at the time, such as whether to choose academic high-school courses, can have a long term impact on your life.

The consequence of any of these choices, however, pales in comparison to another.

The choice to end one’s life is about as permanent a choice as one can make. Whether you do it yourself or have someone do it for you, it’s a final decision. And if it’s effective, there are no backsies.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of discussions around right to die. The discussion is actually around another right—the right to have someone else (a doctor) carry out your wish.

The argument for making processes available to end one’s life in a humane way is compelling when presented in the context of physical suffering. After all, if your dog is terminally ill and in pain that can’t be relieved, you wouldn’t want it to continue suffering, would you? I wouldn’t.

However, the recent special committee report recommends expanding that context.

I felt a chill when, among the many recommendations, I read, “physical or psychological suffering that is enduring and intolerable to the person…” and “first stage applying immediately to competent adult persons 18 years or older, to be followed by a second stage applying to competent mature minors…”

Suffering that is enduring and intolerable is…intolerable. It’s not for me to define for you what is tolerable or intolerable. Suffering that I might perceive as intolerable you may perceive as insignificant, and vice versa.

However, I do see a substantial difference between the physical suffering of a person with a terminal disease such as ALS, and psychological suffering that is not terminal and that just might have the potential to lessen.

I would like to believe that every one of us will have the strength, support, and information that we need to help us through whatever suffering comes to our lives. Just because I would like to believe it doesn’t mean that will happen, unfortunately.

Whether anyone chooses to end their life is ultimately their choice. But what if the choice is based on lack of information?

Laws and culture influence the decisions that people make. Laws may not control those decisions, but they certainly influence. Legalization essentially states, “Our culture is OK with this.”

In these posts, I try to provide information to help folks create more satisfying lives. The general direction is toward improving relationships, making positive connections, living with purpose. Having a difficult time? Take control of what you can. Build on any tiny scrap that is hopeful and positive. Take heart. As Stan Rogers sang, “Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain…rise again.”

A person who is suffering psychologically may state that they want to end it all. Are you OK with the medical system fulfilling that wish—even for a patient without a terminal illness?

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