Is there such thing as a “good” death?

I read this article in the NYT awhile ago, but I am finally getting some time to post about it.

In ill doctor, a surprise reflection of who picks assisted suicide

It is a balanced argument on physician assisted suicide, straight from the viewpoint of a medical doctor. It’s not about a “slippery slope” and the evil doctors that wish to murder patients. But more so about autonomy and control.

Washington followed Oregon in allowing terminally ill patients to get a prescription for drugs that will hasten death. Critics of such laws feared that poor people would be pressured to kill themselves because they or their families could not afford end-of-life care. But the demographics of patients who have gotten the prescriptions are surprisingly different than expected, according to data collected by Oregon and Washington through 2011.

Dr. Wesley is emblematic of those who have taken advantage of the law. They are overwhelmingly white, well educated and financially comfortable. And they are making the choice not because they are in pain but because they want to have the same control over their deaths that they have had over their lives.

Furthermore, those who have this choice don’t necessarily end their lives with the prescription. Yet, they have the option.

About a third of those who fill the prescription die without using it. “I don’t know if I’ll use the medication to end my life,” Dr. Wesley said. “But I do know that it is my life, it is my death, and it should be my choice.”

There was a landmark ruling for Canada back in June. It allowed Gloria Taylor, a woman living with ALS, to seek physician assisted suicide without legal ramifications. The BC Supreme Court ruled that the ban against physician assisted suicide was unconstitutional because it discriminated against the physically disabled.

Gloria Taylor spoke with her lawyers after the decision and gave this statement:

‘I’m deeply grateful to have the comfort of knowing that I’ll have a choice at the end of my life. This is a blessing for me and other seriously and incurably ill individuals. This decision allows me to approach my death in the same way I’ve tried to live my life: With dignity, independence, and grace,’

I’m thankful to live in a country that isn’t afraid to raise issues and hold debate on ethical dilemmas. I agree it would be difficult to be a healthcare provider, or loved one taking care of a palliative patient. And even more difficult if you oppose their choice. However, suicide is not illegal in Canada. Therefore, if one is mentally capable and sound to make that decision, but physically unable to carry out the act, they should still be given the means to carry out their plan.

It’s one step in the right direction for a compassionate society. (If you think about it, we put down pets when they are suffering from incurable illnesses; so, why can’t we have the same rights?)

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