By Emily Chai
It was not so much of a word to describe the dawn of life but retirement for my grandfather. A retirement from pain. To him, pain is when the muscles start to eat away in itself until the bones begin to surface, when the body swells with waste until death wrings out the final drop of life, when he is forced to go through all of this as his body lies hopelessly on the hospital bed every single day, every minute, and every second. On January 15, he passed away while we were still on the way to say goodbye.
Would it be different if physician-assisted death had broken out of its stigma? Few places in the world, such as Belgium and parts of the U.S., have legalized the practice. Many are skeptical of its morality, leading to questions such as: will this practice stretch out of proportion if it were to branch into further aspects, such as mental health? As Richard Doerflinger, the Associate Director of Pro-Life Activities, comments, “Campaigning to end certain people’s lives doesn’t end suffering – it passes on the suffering to other similar people, who now have to fear they are the next people in line to be seen as having worthless lives.”
However, my question is, should we ignore the fact that these people, as a part of our community, are being tormented by the incessant pain that wrenches them and their family both physically and mentally, knowing full well that they do not have the ability to cease it?
It seems to be that people are forcing upon the term “assisted suicide,” that the availability of physician-assisted death poses as an urge for people to deem their lives to be, as Doerflinger says, worthless. To break it down, suicide refers to the commitment of taking one’s own life, commonly as a result of psychological repercussions. What draws a line between assisted suicide and assisted death lies in its characteristics. Suicide holds potential for life. Assisted death does not.
What I mean by this is that the majority of the patients, about 87%, had already been afflicted with a terminal illness in some form. Those who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses are forced to confront death. While the pressure of becoming a burden to others may come across at some stage in the patients’ minds, it all still comes down to it – death. Many, if not most, would acknowledge the fear of death. Death lingers on the other side of the tattered bridge as its laughter haunts our minds. For those who’ve chosen to cross the bridge, their suffering stands far beyond their fear of death. Don’t let them become a prey of their own death, let them yield their own choices.
The rate of assisted death has risen significantly over the past few years. It is nonetheless that the awareness over this controversy has reverberated against the ticking of time as well. For more people to undertake the practice with greater awareness means acceptance. Acceptance does not simply show recognition. No. It voices out their needs, their demand, and their rights. Shouldn’t people have the right to die the same way they have the right to live?
Death is inevitable. We must recognize that there are people who are vulnerable under their own infliction of pain and suffering, who are wary of their own death, who are what we will be. Imagine in the next 50 years, when we take their place on the hospital beds. We can do nothing to alleviate our illnesses. But there is one thing that we have the ability to grant for ourselves, and are obliged to do so in that sense, that is, our right to die. Would things be different if we were all given the chance to say our last goodbyes?
- “Assisted Suicide.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/PC3010999159/OVIC?u=60iskl&sid=OVIC&xid=4e6d1fab. Accessed 28 Mar. 2019.
- “Canadian Association of Retired Persons.” Canadian Association of Retired Persons, 31 July 2015, www.carp.ca/2015/08/14/federal-government-takes-action-of-physician-assisted-dying/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
- “Does the Slippery Slope Exist?” Road to Mercy, Road to Mercy, 2 Sept. 2016, http://roadtomercyfilm.com/news/2016/8/26/does-the-slippery-slope-exist. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
- “Largest Ever Poll on Assisted Dying Shows 82% of Public Support Lord Falconer’s Proposed Change in the Law.” Dignity in Dying, Dignity in Dying, 4 Apr. 2015, www.dignityindying.org.uk/news/poll-assisted-dying/. Accessed 29 Mar. 2019.
- “Let People Have Right to Die When They Choose | Letters.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 Mar. 2019, www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/29/people-must-have-right-to-die-when-they-choose. Accessed 30 Mar. 2019.
- Piili, Reetta P., et al. “Changes in attitudes towards hastened death among Finnish physicians over the past sixteen years.” BMC Medical Ethics, vol. 19, no. 1, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A546360389/OVIC?u=60iskl&sid=OVIC&xid=13aa80ca. Accessed 28 Mar. 2019.
- Simmons, Kevin M. “Suicide and Death with Dignity.” Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Oxford University Press, 15 May 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6121057/. Accessed 29 Mar. 2019.