My Grandmother died of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) the summer my father was 17. He nursed her through to the end and she died in his arms. This affected me even though I was still 17 years from existence. My father was forever changed by that summer. The previous 3 generations before him lost 50% of the siblings to ALS before the age of 45. He was an only child, thus he KNEW he was going to contract ALS and die before he was 45 like the generations before him.
I lived my childhood under the threat of ALS, although I didn’t know that was what the threat was. I just knew that there was something that made my Father anxious and depressed. As I grew older and my father got closer to the magical 45th birthday every twinge and ache was the start of ALS, and there was a death sentence laying behind every pulled muscle.
My Father, through the Grace of God, and the extreme tolerance and pacify of my Mother(any other woman probably would have hurt him or left him!), somehow beat the odds and the genetic form of ALS did not strike, which also made it unlikely that any of his children would develop the genetic version either.
But we have had many a conversation about “what if”. As an adult child I’m not sure that I could help my parent die with Dignity and Peace, but I would hope that if I couldn’t I would be able to find someone who would. I know if I developed ALS that I would decide to end my own life before I was trapped in my own body and slowly suffocated/drowned to death. There are several other situations where I would make the same decision.
While I am a Christian and find great comfort and strength in my beliefs, and I believe God can use illnesses to provide blessings, I have always supported the “Right to Die” ideas. My God is not one of punishment or suffering, but of love and choices. I do not believe that my extreme suffering at the end of my life somehow gives me brownie points in Heaven. And I do not believe that my God would send me to Hell because of it either.
I believe very strongly that there is a difference between wishing to end your life due to extreme terminal illness and being suicidal due to treatable mental illness.
As an animal rescuer I humanely euthanize any animal whose suffering I can not control. I have put down dogs & cats due to terminal illness that medication could no longer treat. How could I do anything less for a Human Being than I would my dog?
Please know that I’m not talking about Eugenics or Death Boards deciding on who lives or dies. I’m talking specifically about giving a person the right to say “I do not wish to live out my life in pain and suffering” and if they are unable to complete the act 100% on their own, having minimal help.
I also realize that there is a slippery slope to be traversed…where do you draw the line about what is considered to be informed consent etc etc etc. I don’t have all of the answers, but I think we all benefit if we talk about it and discuss it openly!
I apologize for the disjointed nature of this post…for some reason this has been weighing heavily on me of late, and I find it difficult to express my feelings about it concisely.