Choosing When and How to Die: Struggling With the Complexities of This Decision in My Close Family.
Is it a right or a privilege to choose how and when we die?
We don’t let animals suffer, so why humans?
— Stephen Hawking
Many questions arise when death is near. What is the right thing to do? How should death be handled? When and how should a death happen? These are questions that doctors, nurses, family members, and friends ask themselves.
I've chosen to write about something that I am well aware is controversial. Let me begin by stating that my goal in writing this essay is not to cause a stir.
This is a subject that I am currently dealing with in my family. As a method to cope with the issues, the complexities of the options, and, of course, the emotions. I began writing about it. Call me crazy, but it helps me in my process. Then I decided to publish it.
And yes, if you were wondering, it's COVID19 that has presented my family member with this decision. They are confined to a hospital bed. Their immediate family (including me) have been dealing with these issues, questions, and decisions.
This isn't the first time I've considered it, and it's not the first time I've had to deal with it. But this is the first time that it's been so personal. One of the first times it was brought up to me, I questioned my own beliefs. I had to figure out what I felt about death. What would I want? How did I feel about assisted suicide and euthanasia?
Most people have their views on death established early in life. Whether we realize it or not. Religion, upbringing, or some other factor shaped us into what we believe today.
The right to choose how and when we die is something many people take for granted. Until faced with a situation like this one which leaves your loved ones trapped inside their bodies. At the same time, you watch from the outside, trying to help despite being unable to do so.
I've heard it argued both ways, with many different views in the past few days. Death is an inevitable part of life, yet still, it inspires fear and resistance when talking about our death or the death of a loved one.
My family member has been dealing with COVID19 and its side effects for about a month now. They've been intubated and given the tracheotomy. It became to the point where they had to be resuscitated. As a result, things are desperate. To top it off, their lifelong spouse also got sick and died while they were unconscious. They were woken up to face the harsh reality of their current circumstances and their newfound status as a widower. I have been watching some of my dearest people struggle to come to terms with this situation. (Please excuse me as I'm being vague; out of respect for them, I don't want to overshare.)
How do you decide who has the right to make those decisions? Who decides between family members who both love each other but aren't on the same page when it comes down to this one subject?
If I ever find myself in a similar situation, will I be able to take my own life? Will I want someone else making decisions of how and when it happens? What if something changes my mind after stating otherwise? Who would those people be? I've had many of these questions in my head, and needless to say, I've felt a wide variety of emotions.
Death is inevitable. We all must face death, whether sooner or later, but choosing when and how to die? That's a whole other story…
Difference between euthanasia vs. assisted suicide.
Euthanasia and Assisted suicide are two different things. Euthanasia is the act of ending one's life to relieve pain and suffering. Assisted suicide is the act of helping another person end their life. So, euthanasia is helping someone end their own life, while assisted suicide is helping someone else finish theirs.
“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are never acceptable acts of mercy. They always gravely exploit the suffering and desperate, extinguishing life in the name of the “quality of life” itself.”
- Pope John Paul II
Is the decision of choosing how and when to die a right or a privilege?
I've heard some people say death is a privilege, and others believe that death is our right.
There are many arguments for and against the belief that choosing to die is a right or a privilege. The first argument supports the idea that it's a right because individuals decide to live life on their terms. The other opinion believes that it's not a right because it takes away energy from everyone else around them.
There are also arguments for and against the belief that it's a privilege. The first argument supports the idea that it is not a privilege because there are no benefits to suicide. The other view believes it can be a privilege because committing suicide means not dealing with further pain or suffering.
Still, death doesn't always happen when we expect it or want it. Its unexpected nature makes all the difference, even though there are many other factors involved. For example, someone who has cancer may be fighting for their lives every day until they die at some point, along with side effects from used as treatment which can take years rather than weeks or months depending on what form of cancer was diagnosed.
In my efforts to comprehend this difficult decision, I came across "Death with Dignity," an organization that promotes death with dignity by providing information and resources to individuals who are making end-of-life choices as well as their families in the United States. I was pleased to discover that their website is quite helpful, and I've added a link to it so you may access it.
Death with dignity is when someone decides not to receive treatment to prolong their life. In other words, they choose not to fight the illness or injury that's making them suffer because it would be pointless.
If you were diagnosed with an incurable disease, how long do you have left to live? How will this information affect your decision-making process around dying? The answer may surprise you — according to one study, most people who had been given a terminal diagnosis said that knowledge was helpful as it helped them prepare for death while also reducing feelings of depression.
Cancer patients are often anxious about death, so being informed is essential. Still, there's no right or wrong answer because all choices have different consequences.
Palliative care has been available to help individuals living with a severe illness for many years, but it's not guaranteed in every country. People should understand that this type of service isn't for dying people — its purpose is to improve the quality of life for those suffering from chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
Palliative care can be provided anytime during a person's health challenges, including before death becomes imminent, which means it can begin. At the same time, someone lives in their own home instead of a nursing home.
Palliative care can also be provided at any time in a person's death journey, including right before death, during hospice, and after death. It is focused on helping people live as well as possible until the very end of their lives. Palliative care does not try to cure disease or slow its progress; it focuses on side effects such as pain, loss of appetite, and fatigue that come with serious illness.
The palliative team will provide all kinds of support. Hence, each patient has an individualized plan for physical symptoms, emotional needs, and spiritual concerns, including Accessing information about medical conditions, maintaining control over daily life, managing pain, improving the quality of sleep, communicating feelings, and assisting with nutrition and hydration and planning for death Preparing family members.
Palliative care also helps people better understand what to expect, their options and provide access to home health services if needed, such as nursing, social work, and chaplaincy. It supports patients with advanced illnesses, those who are dying, and those grieving a death by working side-by-side with the patient's doctors and medical team to ensure that all their needs are met.
Arguments in favor of euthanasia: A life without dignity
A life without dignity can happen with people who are old, disabled, or dying. Euthanizing them would end their suffering and give them a better quality of life. Additionally, they will not have to worry about other adverse effects of aging or living with a disability. For those who live entire lives and die of natural causes, it is said that they should not be deprived of their death as it is the only thing they cannot do on their own.
Some people believe that euthanizing those who don't want to live anymore is more merciful than allowing these people to keep suffering.
Arguments against euthanasia
Some people believe that euthanasia is a form of suicide and should not be permitted. They believe that euthanasia is a form of murder and should not be allowed and be considered a crime.
Some people believe that death by choice takes away life from everyone around them, including their family members who would no longer have someone to share memories or experiences with. It may also bring different feelings such as guilt in those left behind, which can add more difficulty for the family member's life than it solves if they were to commit suicide themselves.
Who should decide? The government? Doctors? Our family?
Some people think that the government should not have a say in what a person can do with their life. They feel that it is a private matter whether they want to die by themselves or someone else's help.
Many people consider life the most important thing that we have and give it a great value. But is it suitable for a doctor to decide when we die?
This question is becoming more and more relevant. Some people believe that physicians should not determine when someone dies, while others argue that they should.
The ethics of life extension is an interesting dilemma. It is not uncommon for people to consider it unethical to prolong someone's life by making them suffer, but what if no treatment options are left? If the person in question is not willing to accept death, should we force them? These are challenging questions and one that has no definite answer.
While the ethics of life extension are up for debate, technologies will play a significant role in the future of health care. Technologies have already expanded our ability to diagnose diseases earlier and faster than ever before, leading to better treatment outcomes. These innovations will only continue in the future with more AI, robotics, and other technologies.
What is the difference between euthanasia and suicide?
Suicide is when you end your life, while euthanasia is when someone else ends your life. Suicide is when you take your own life so that death comes sooner. Euthanasia is dying at the hands of another, often a doctor or someone else who can help end their suffering.
Euthanasia refers to an action taken by one person to end another person's life for reasons such as mercy killing and assisted suicide. In contrast, suicide means taking one's own life, ending it on purpose. Suicide is not legal in many countries worldwide, but it is legal in most of the United States.
Where suicide is not legal, it is considered a crime against oneself and one's family. But after committing suicide, the person committing the crime is dead; how is it illegal? The victim of the crime is now dead, so they are unable to press charges. This means that the person committing the crime cannot be punished for their actions.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Various factors contribute to suicide rates, but one of the most prevalent causes is mental illness.
I wrote an article about Mental Illness, which included several helplines and websites. (you may find it here)
The difference between euthanasia and physician-assisted death?
Many people are confused about what differentiates euthanasia from physician-assisted death (PAD). Some believe they are synonyms, but there are essential differences between them. While both deal with ending a patient's life, PAD is death at the hands of a doctor. At the same time, euthanasia can be death by another person's hand- not a doctor.
When does physician-assisted death occur?
PAD occurs when someone requests that their doctor end their life through meditation or other means to relieve them from pain and suffering. Euthanasia happens when death comes as an act rather than because it was requested.
What are some factors associated with both euthanasia and PAD?
PAD is more likely to be associated with death in older patients, have many conditions, and are enrolled in hospice care.
Euthanasia is considered a controversial topic. It has been legalized by certain countries but remains illegal or restricted in many others. For example, euthanasia was made legal throughout the entire country of Canada back in 2016, while it's still unlawful across most parts of America.
The main reasons why some patients request euthanasia consist of unbearable physical suffering, an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability, loss of dignity, being trapped [in] one's body due to extreme paralysis, having no hope for recovery, being dependent on others for basic needs such as eating and going to the bathroom, psychological distress caused by the knowledge that there is no cure, and a high level of dependence on others for everyday tasks.
We have been debating this for centuries.
The debate over the 'right' to die is very much still alive in today's society. With the advancement of technology, euthanasia has become a popular option for patients with terminal illnesses. The issue has been debated for centuries since Plato and Aristotle discussed euthanasia. There are arguments that euthanasia is wrong because it will devalue life by saying that it is not worth living or promotes suicide, which is always wrong according to most religions. There are arguments against euthanasia because people in pain should be treated with empathy and compassion rather than being killed off, even if they have a terminal illness. But, many supporters of euthanasia argue that people should have the right to control their own lives, including when they die.
One of the primary reasons why the right to choose how and when to die is this issue of dignity. Those who oppose assisted suicide argue that people would feel that they are not worth living anymore. Others say that there should be a balance between respecting individual autonomy and protecting vulnerable groups such as the disabled and other minorities from abuse.
This is a complex issue and one that is personal and private to each individual. I am somewhat more at ease with my family circumstance after reading and performing the study for this article, and I'm even more clear in my mind about what I'd do. Yet, I also have far more questions than I did before. To me, this is not a negative thing; instead, it's a good thing. I'm hoping you feel the same way.
Do you have any experience in this area that might help me sort through my thoughts on the matter? I'd love to hear from anyone who has experienced death first-hand in their life, either by knowing someone close who has died or even being present at the death bedside. What was it like for you? Have you been confronted with these questions and circumstances?
I’ve come across two books that are, in my opinion, some of the most well-researched on the topic:
Assisted Suicide and the Right to Die: The Interface of Social Science, Public Policy, and Medical Ethics
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium (Cambridge Bioethics and Law, Series Number 42)
You may also enjoy this other article: