18 April, 2016

Assisted Suicide

Euthanasia-- from the Greek eu 'well, good' + thanatos 'death'.

I could just end this blog here and you'd fully grasp my opinion on the matter. Because I suffer from logorrhea (more Greek: logos 'word' + rhoia 'flow'), I won't.

I understand why abortion is a difficult topic: on one side you have people who believe everyone has an inalienable right to be born, without regard to the circumstances they're born into, and on the other you've got people talking about women's rights over their own bodies and completely sidestepping the developing body inside. I've staked out a middle ground on that one: personally I'm not highly keen on abortion but I would never, ever seek to make my choice (that's what pro-life is, a choice) the law of the land.

At the other end, though? I draw a blank as to why there's even debate about assisted suicide. It's very, very hard not to characterize one side of this particular debate as a bunch of amoral monsters. The funny thing is, those amoral monsters seem to consider euthanasia itself amoral and monstrous.

I don't get it. It's a full-on mental block.

Damnit, we euthanize pets. You don't walk into work the day after you put your old dog down and face outrage, do you? It's a hard decision, determining exactly when that pet's quality of life has ebbed to the point where they're better off dead--and it hurts like hell to make it, but make it we do. There aren't gangs of rogue vets with needles going around killing off dogs once they hit the age of ten, and I'm unaware of any lobby group suggesting that vets should be going to jail for murdering defenceless animals.

But turn the pet into your grandmother, or your father, or any other human being and all of a sudden these people come out of the woodwork saying no! This person must suffer, and suffer, and suffer long beyond the point when the pain is unbearable! Not matter how they feel about it! Oh, they'll let you know when it's time for them to die! They'll do it by....dying! Bwah-ha-ha-ha! 

Sorry for the evil mastermind chortle, but c'mon. Doesn't that seem like the plot of some kind of torture porn? Saw XIII, perhaps, set in "Mercy" General Hospital?

It's good that our country has finally recognized that our lives are our own (whose else would they be, after all) and this includes our deaths. Long ago I determined that if I'm ever unable to communicate and unable to even recognize my loved ones, I want out. And if I've been rendered incapable of seeing myself out, well, then, somebody's going to have to give me a hand.

The problem is that in this draft legislation, my feelings on my own death are still legally irrelevant. There is no 'advanced consent' written in. To get the right to assisted suicide, I must be a mentally competent adult,  suffering "intolerably", and my death must be "reasonably foreseeable".

So if I develop spinal stenosis, the disease that afflicted the woman behind this legislation in the first place, I'm S.O.L. Stenosis is excruciating...but not fatal. You can live with it for years. You might call it living. Kay Carter didn't. Neither do I.

"Reasonably foreseeable?" Tell you something, friends and neighbours, I'm not sure about your immortality, but for me, my death was "reasonably foreseeable" the instant I was born. (Actually, in my case, well before. I beat some odds just getting into this world.)

So let's talk about those odds, that miraculous cure. They do happen, through mechanisms we don't understand. Prayer (or meditation, which in my belief system is the same thing) may even be one of those mechanisms: the scientific studies of the efficacy of prayer are fatally flawed seventeen different ways. How exactly do you measure the reverence of the praying person? Or the reverence of she who is prayed for?  How do you reliably measure the effort of prayer or meditation, which in religious and philosophical traditions is absolutely critical to its outcome? And what if the soul you're praying for has determined it's time to move on? (I happen to believe this is the case in each and every death: yes, even "accidental" death or "wrongful" death. I have no scientific basis for this belief: I can't. Nevertheless, I believe). Can prayers then be said to be 'immoral'? Do 'immoral' prayers work?

Sorry, a little die-gression there.

Miraculous events do occur. I wouldn't bank on one myself. But that's just it; I'm talking about myself here. MY life. MY death. MY terms. You bloody bet it's selfish: Self-ish, as opposed to "everybody else-ish". You are perfectly free to make your own terms up: if you derive some unknown pleasure from suffering intolerably, who am I to take that away from you? And who are you to say I must share your fate?

Eight in ten Canadians support advanced consent for assisted suicide. (Poll was commissioned by Dying With Dignity, through Ipsos Reid and is available at the link if you want to dispute methodology.) Frankly, this is one of those issues where it wouldn't matter if support were at EIGHT per cent...because, quite simply, the other 92% would never have to worry about it.

People on the other side are acting very much as if the option of euthanasia necessarily means the obligation to undergo it. I've never understood this widespread mental quirk. I saw it with gay marriage: opponent after opponent said gay marriage somehow 'devalued' their 'traditional' marriage (without ever once explaining how). It was as if the push for marriage equality was really a covert attempt to outlaw straight marriage. Ludicrous.

Let me live and  let me die on my own time and terms, and I will permit you the same.

And there's an end to it.

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