Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I often ponder why it is that we treat sick animals with more compassion than sick humans. If an animal is suffering and dying, we put them to sleep. We don't even think about the alternative, because we know it is the right thing to do. We 'put them out of their misery' and allow them to die peacefully and with grace.
If a person is suffering and dying, we expect them to spend unearthly amounts of money on expensive tests, hospital stays, medicines, pain killers and a host of indignities, we expect them to suffer and to hang on and hang in until they've exhausted their bodies, their spirits and their bank accounts. Even if they don't wish to live, we force them to until they've lost every grip on what it is to be in control of their destiny. Even if they have lived full lives and are ready to move on, they have absolutely no right to do so. They must keep on pumping money and resources into their sinking ship until the bitter, miserable end. Anyone who dares to help someone who has decided that they'd like to spare themselves and their families the expense and the suffering that comes from a protracted and painful death is considered a 'murderer.' We live in a culture that is terrified of death, so much so that we pretend it never has to happen. I think that's dangerous.
Why is compassion murder?
Why is allowing and assisting someone to choose the manner and the time of their death and to execute it as they see fit a crime?
If a chaotic event happens and I lose my faculties and I'm nothing more than an assisted heartbeat without an inkling of my former self, I want the Kool-Aid. Whether I've left the building or not, if it's burning indefinitely I'd like out, thank you. If I am diagnosed with an incurable disease and it has become evident that efforts to thwart it are in vain, I fully intend to choose the moment of my death.
I've got far too much to do to die right now, but when I am ready to shake this mortal coil, if it isn't a blissful transition, I will do what I can to make it so. I think we should all have that right. I don't understand why people feel they have the right to tell other people not only how to live but how to die. Why can't we all mind our own ever lovin' business? Why can't we find the same compassion we have for Fluffy and apply it to our neighbor?
Yes, one does.
I realize this is complicated by emotion and romance and the wishes of those around someone who is dying or on life support. Sometimes it's hard for other people to let go and I think that's tough to navigate. I remember the way the Terry Schiavo case was handled and politicized. So let me make this clear...pull the plug, give me the Kool-Aid and do what it takes to free me. I can't imagine anything worse than being stuck inside a body that is no longer serving me.
We all should have the right to decide. Compassion isn't always easy. Sometimes it means letting go. Sometimes it means loving someone enough to let them go.
Tricky stuff indeed.