I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother lately. I don’t know why. It seems to come in waves. One moment I’m just screwing around, playing video games, the next I suddenly remember the permanence of death. The forever-ness.
My father says he remembers the good times… not the bitter end. I don’t know how. I can’t seem to forget. The images seem seared into my brain. I don’t know how you’re supposed to watch something like that happen to someone you love.
I still hold onto that anger, too. The anger that I can’t do anything about it. That I have to wait and watch helplessly as someone I love deteriorates in front of my eyes. And why? Why is this somehow more ethical than just shooting a bunch of morphine into someone and letting them find release that way?
Is that truly murder?
Humans and Animals
I’ve never really understood our take on euthanasia and mercy as a culture.
After all, it’s perfectly legal to put down an animal. It’s often a tragic, difficult decision. And it is almost always done out of love. Sure, if your grandmother has cancer, you’ll probably go ahead and treat that cancer rather than euthanize her. (I hope.)
But when your dog is only suffering and there’s nothing you can do, is it not merciful to let your beloved pet rest? Is it wrong? Of course not. It’s a terrible, terrible choice you have to make, but it is one done out of love, not hate.
Yet we never apply this principle to humans. No matter what condition they are in… no matter how badly they may even want it… we demand life. We demand they continue to suffer. There is no mercy for humans.
Is this love? Or madness?
When my mother had a stroke, I held out hope. Idiotically, perhaps. But I hoped. I hoped she’d get better. I looked for a glimmer in her eyes. Some recognition. Anything.
But as time passes, hope turns to despair. And you run out of options.
This isn’t life. This isn’t what she wanted. This is just a shell of the person I knew.
So what can you do? You have two options.
Terrible Option One: Continue to keep her alive via feeding tube. She’ll never be able to take care of herself. She will require 24/7 assistance, from eating to using the bathroom. She will not be aware of anything in her life.
Terrible Option Two: Stop the feeding tube and wait. And wait. And wait. And watch. And never forget the images in your head. And the despair you feel as you sit idly by.
That’s it. That’s all you have.
Is there no other way?
There are no countries in the world which consider it legal to non-voluntarily euthanize someone who cannot speak for themselves. Even in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal, there is no option for my family.
Maybe I’m insane. But is it truly better to starve someone to death than to simply let them overdose on morphine? Is one of these options truly more ethical than the other? Am I a monster for thinking so?
I don’t know. I just know I would never, ever wish what I witnessed on anybody else, no matter what they did. No matter how shitty they were. It’s just not the kind of thing someone should have to watch.
The Role of Religion
I can’t help but think this is all tied to religion somehow. After all, if abortion is murder, then non-voluntary euthanasia is sure as hell murder. I guess it’s not God’s Will to let me put someone I love out of their misery.
Nope, God’s Plan was to just strike her down with a stroke and let me watch for six weeks while she slowly detoriated. That plan rocked, God. I can’t wait to see what you have planned next!
Look, I get it. Nobody wants to be a killer. But sometimes the best option is still a shit option. Mercy killing is not a wonderful subject. But it’s a thing that exists in the world for a reason.
But I also can’t help but think it doesn’t matter what religion you are.. it’s not your business. It’s a private choice in a family. And nobody should have the right to make these intentionally private choices for you (just look at the Schiavo debacle).
Nobody wants to have these uncomfortable conversations. It’s easier to go on with your life and worry about what you’re going to have to lunch. That’s pretty much how I live my life, too.
But this affected me. This affected the people I love. This put me through things I would never, ever, ever want to go through.
Maybe it’s worth thinking about. Maybe it’s worth talking about.
Maybe there’s another way.
Sometimes, when all you have are terrible choices, it’s time to give someone another, slightly less terrible option. You can’t fix the world’s problem. But if you can relieve someone’s suffering… if you can ease their burden just a little…