Brittany Maynard recently ended her life at the age of 29, having battled aggressive brain tumors for years. As the tumors caused greater and more painful moments of being awake, and were found to be inoperable and terminal, Brittany called her own exit. The story has been well chronicled so I won’t cover it again here. However, a few years ago, this topic arose in Washington State, and it set my mind off into many different, somewhat dark regions. Having grievously watched my dad’s slow decline to a shell of a man from 2004-2009 due to dementia, the impact and effects on my family and his friends, I really began to wonder what I would do if my health came to a similar state.
The Death with Dignity act, or “physician-assisted suicide,” is available to people who have a terminal illness, incurable & excruciating pain, or have been talked into it by some family members. There’s a review process after applying to a few doctors, findable via Google and maybe Yelp? The applicant goes through a fair amount of testing to see what’s going on, and to make sure they’re not trying to get out of jury duty. Plus there’s the “less than 6 months to live” criteria. Seems subjective, but whatever…
So in all of this involvement of doctors and pharmacists and party planning and “affairs in order” and what-not, comes two main points I think must be addressed.
- Is It Wrong? This is, by nature, a judgmental and personal-ethics statement within each person’s answer. Is choosing your own biological death’s date, based on a terrible illness, via the quiet undertow of a massive barbituate dosing, more acceptable than other forms of ending one’s life? Or is it in the days preceding your passing that keep it on the “light side,” being able to say Goodbye and take care of all the particulars and throw a party and cut the line at Starbucks every morning, Bucket List items and what-not?
- What If It Doesn’t Work? You’ve said your “good-byes”, or “go F yourself”‘s, whatever the case called for. Your belongings are accounted for, donated, burned, repurposed, etc. And you gulp down the pills that are going to drop your blood-pressure to NIL, shut down your brain’s ability to fire off your heart muscles, and you’ll drift into the Great Other. Until BAMMO you wake up again barfing all over your Red & Gold Satin Burial robe, wondering why Heaven would welcome home a lost angel in such a horrific fashion, or maybe this isn’t Heaven, OH NO, IT’S WORSE… It’s your living room.
THEN what? I’d have a quick call to the prescribing doctor and see what the deal is. But at least you could start calling friends a few days later and freak them out. Your number comes up on their phone in the middle of their brunch, EEEEEE, creepy for them, FUN FOR YOOOU!
In a time when a fair number of people choose this route I wonder how much Brittany’s beauty played into it. Seriously, a young, beautiful person (by most standards) with a tragic illness chooses to die a few days after her husband’s birthday, and it’s national news for quite a while. What about the 78 year-old with colon cancer and carry-on colostomy bag, where’s their press?
I’m all-for the controlled slide to the Afterlife if your health is failing and you wake up to a painful existence every day. Sure, there might be a cure around the corner. There might be a pharmaceutical lottery win with your name on it. Or a natural cure right in your own back yard that somebody finds the day after you pass. But you should call your own shot if your body is taken over by cancer-caused agony. Can you be a role model of strength and endurance to those around you? For how long? Would you call a “deadline” (ha ha) to it, and if you’re not better by that date, Drop the Beats, DJ, this party’s starting?
In case you can’t go the quiet Rx route, involving doctors and lawmakers and news pundits, give me a call. I have access to a human catapult and some moonshine, we’ll go out like a hero in the parking lot of your workplace. As long as your insurance covers 80%.