Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Death with Dignity

Two women, Christy O'Donnell and Jennifer Glass, both with terminal cancer, are fighting for the legal right to end their own lives. A hearing was held yesterday in California for the End-of-Life-Options-Act, which sadly did not get enough votes to continue through to legislation, stalled largely by religious organizations according to the news reports last night.
The fact that both of these women have been given death sentences and are still battling to the end is amazing. If you are a pet owner, you have likely been forced to decide to end a pet’s suffering and put them to sleep. And if you’re like me, you have weighed that decision heavily, second-guessed it, watched your pet suffer more, and finally come to the conclusion that it’s the right decision. You love them so much you want them to be free from pain.
If we are trusted as pet owners to make that choice for them, should we not be trusted to make that choice for ourselves? Is that not also a kindness? All these women want is the right for Californians to decide when to end their fight. And they want to be able to do so before the even-more-horrible pain that debilitates them comes.

"I've reconciled my own religious beliefs with this decision. My walk with God, it doesn't conflict with my desire to die peacefully, to take away physical pain. And I don't believe, at least in my particular religion or others, that this type of pain serves a purpose." ~Christy O’Donnell

I resent the way the media is clarifying what form and stage of cancer these women have, as if we have a right to make a judgment call. I hated more the subtle media implications that we should feel bad for the one with lung cancer who was not a smoker. As if, had she been, we should sit in judgment that she brought the pain and death upon herself. Suffering is suffering. Their lives are precious temples that are being eaten alive from the inside out. This is the time for compassion.
These women are dying. They are unwillingly leaving behind families who do not want to lose them. And they want to end things before their disease traps them in their bodies.

"That's the thing is ... is you don't want to let go of your loved one. But to suggest that she should suffer for me, for anyone? No. ... That's what you struggle with. Here's the person I love and I don't want to see her go. But the seizure that [last] morning was a reminder of what she was risking because what was coming next was losing her eyesight, becoming paralyzed and an inability to speak. And then she would essentially be trapped in her own body." ~Dan Diaz, husband of Brittany Maynard, who moved to Oregon to end her own life legally

Lives matter. I understand that doctors sign up to save lives, and may not want to sign on to end them, but don’t doctors also learn how to know when treatment will no longer serve the patient? We do not live in a singular polarity. There is no life without death. And sometimes, the best way to respect the life is to give it a merciful death, when death is already knocking.
If doctors can keep the patient comfortable until they die naturally, should the patient not also have a say in when that is? I mean, let’s split hairs. Technically, they are already dying naturally. It’s not murder when the patient asks for it. It’s not suicide when the patient is already terminal. Death is death.

"I'm doing everything I can to extend my life. No one should have the right to prolong my death." ~Jennifer Glass

I wrote about this already, in my post “Assisted Dying” on November 5, 2014, about Brittany Maynard, the woman who moved to Oregon so she could end her terminal cancer on her own terms, just three days before my post. She had been prescribed a medicine that would end her life, and she held onto it until she knew it was the right time. It was important to her that people understand why she wanted to do it.

“I've had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms. I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don't deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?” ~Brittany Maynard

Death with dignity is currently legal in Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, with a ruling pending in New Mexico. We’re being asked to open our minds a lot in our country right now, to accept new modes of thinking so that we might change the things that have always been done a certain way that we see are no longer serving us. How we live is as important as how we die.  What options would you want available to you?

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