[eta No, I don’t mean the musicians. Until today I didn’t know there *were* musicians named Euthanasia!]
Background: In junior high, I took a class on death and dying. I was particularly interested in the subject because of my mother’s illness. I think it’s likely that this class introduced me to the concept of Euthanasia. Somewhere in my hoard of school papers (now down to a measly banker’s box), there might still be a copy of the paper I wrote on the subject.
After my mother’s death in 1978, I paid attention to the news whenever the subject came up, but I wasn’t active in the discussion. It never dawned on me that I would have to confront the reality of long term debilitating illness again in my close family. I have no idea why I thought I was immune, other than that it seemed the problem skipped my father’s generation.
That’s horse manure, of course. His cousin Dick had it, and has likely died since my last contact with the family some eight or nine years ago. It runs through his mother’s side of the family – fully half her siblings died after long term bouts of dementia. And while it seems logical that my grandmother avoided it, one has to wonder about the hallucinations she was suffering in the year or so before her death. or the sanity of a woman in complete denial about how much she can afford to pay and whether she can live on her own with brittle bones and bad asthma. She was hospitalized for a mental imbalance in 1992 while I was dealing with my back surgery, and was gone one year later. It’s the asthma that finally killed her, because she refused to take her medicine. Suicide? Probably. Rational? No idea.
But now, with my father’s sudden and inescapable decline, the word has popped back up in my head again. A quick exploration of the Internet, and it’s clear that the group claiming the name Euthanasia.com is a member of the right-to-life movement. There was such a bill before the Maryland legislature, but it failed. I recall vaguely the matter coming up and being put down again.
In fact, the right to die has only been achieved in four states, with California considering it now.
I have a vague recollection that my paper from Junior High postulated that we are somehow less human because we can feel pity for an animal and are willing to put it to sleep when it’s clearly time (how do we know?!?) but that we can’t allow the same to be true for our fellow humans.
I think you probably know where I stand with this. My father made it all too clear. He told both of us: should he have to be institutionalized because of illness, he didn’t want it dragged out. He wanted the option to opt out.
I suppose it could be said that my sister and father should have moved to the northwestern US to ensure this could happen, but that’s not where they are and now the best we can hope for is to withdraw liquids when it comes time. We have no idea how long this will take. It could be years.
All of a sudden, I’m back in 1976 again, two years before my mother’s actual death from natural causes, the result of complications from her disease and of being bedridden nine years. We’re facing an epidemic in this country as the Boomer generation comes closer to the edge of the abyss. I’m at the tail end of that movement, because my parents waited until late to marry. My father is 31 years older than I am. It’s reasonable to assume he’s been dealing with this disease since at least 2005. The disease snuck up on us. Its affect are devastating to watch and I’m not even there in person to deal with the day-to-day horror of the loss of his intellect.
I suspect it’s a long trip we’ve started. I hope to whatever god is out there that I’m wrong and that the end comes quickly. It’s what he wants.
We’re so enlightened as a society. Why can’t we take the next step?