In America, two states, Washington and Oregon, legally allow assisted suicides for terminally ill patients who choose to end their lives. 34 states have laws making assisting suicide a crime, and the remaining states have laws somewhere in between, or do not have an official stand on the matter. The Supreme Court has ruled that it is up to the individual states to decide on this issue, without federal interference.

While I believe that life is precious, I also believe that a person who is mentally competent and suffering from an incurable disease should have the right to make the decision to die with dignity, and that physicians should be allowed to provide them with prescriptions to do so. 

I have heard people who oppose suicide say that it is the quitter’s way out, and there is some validity to that claim. If an angst-ridden teenager or a depressed adult just chooses not to deal with life anymore, is it okay to end it?

I don’t think so. There have been times in my past when I have been so far down emotionally that the easiest thing in the world would have been to pick up a gun, or turn into the path of an oncoming train. But I’m too much of a coward to do so, and I couldn’t do that to my kids. And guess what? I eventually came out on the other side of the crisis, and now I can’t wait to get up every morning and see what life holds for me today.

On the flip side, I knew guys who vowed during their time in combat to save their last bullet for themselves, because they knew they could not withstand being taken prisoner. I don’t think I could have handled that ordeal either.

I watched my father die a horrible death from cancer, and when he began to go downhill, my mother asked me to take his guns out of the house, which I did. But, as his disease worsened, I can’t honestly say I could have refused him if he asked me to bring him a pistol. Dad said he would never do that to my mother, but I do believe that he should have had the option to end his life with a prescription, if he chose to, in comfort and surrounded by his family.

I believe in the right to die with dignity. I have an Advance Directive stating that if I am in a vegetative state with no reasonable chance of recovering, that no artificial means be used to keep me alive.

There is a time when death is coming and you can’t stop it, but I do believe that if you are in that position and cannot handle the suffering, you should have the right to speed up the inevitable. We do that for the pets we love, so why should we deny it to the people we love?

Yes, I know that it’s a grim subject, but not everything in life is sunshine. It’s something any of us may be faced with someday. How do you feel about this issue?

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25 Comments on Dying With Dignity

  1. Margie says:

    I agree with you 100% on this topic. Maybe I should ask my spouse to agree to drive the motor home towards Washington or Oregon if I get a terminal illness. When our last dog became terminal and had no quality of life, it was comforting to be able to put her to sleep so she wouldn’t have pain and suffering anymore. I believe my mother would have chosen to be “put to sleep” rather endure the pain and suffering of her illnesses at the end of her life.

  2. Tom in Ohio says:

    I also agree here Nick. We are given the ability by our maker to decide which way to live our lives, why not the right to end it? I have wondered many times if those that oppose the right to end ones life in this manner are only thinking of themselves. Should I have to endure a terrible end to make another feel better? It would be very interesting to see this put to a vote nationwide.

  3. MichaelG says:

    I have no problem with suicide if that’s what people want to do, rather than going out in high-tech medical style. However, I do have a problem assisted suicide.

    First, doctors didn’t go into medicine to kill people. It’s not fair to expect them to hand out suicide pills. From their point of view, it’s a complete violation of their oath and a failure on their part.

    Second, you really don’t want them saying, in effect, “well, you could just give up here.” You want them to do everything possible. And I don’t think you want hospital bureaucrats (or relative) giving you that “why are you prolonging this?” speech either.

    It’s perfectly possible to commit suicide on your own, the old fashioned way. From what I read, it doesn’t even have to be painful (no guns, jumping off bridges, etc. required.) Even if it was painful, or difficult to go through with it, you are saying that your life is miserable and you want to end it. What’s a little pain compared to that? In fact, forcing people to go through with suicide on their own guarantees they really mean it.

    What I think people really want here is permission to give up, with all the trappings of a medical procedure. And I don’t think society should encourage that.

  4. Helen Moll says:

    There are ten commandmants. One of them is Thou Shalt not Kill. To justify the killing does not mean that it is ok to take a life.

    Just my humble opinion.

  5. Ed Hackenbruch says:

    Quality of life, not quantity of life. I have seen too many people suffer for long periods of time just because someone else thinks they should be kept alive as long as possible.

  6. Tom Marlatt says:

    All that I would have to do is stop taking my daily meds. But I don’t anticipate that I would do that – I’m too curious about what might happen next in this world to want to leave it early. Like Nick said, pain is often over before we know it. I respect anyones decision, however, and I think that they should have the right to make it.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    My term paper was on euthanasis. Try and find anything about it in the 60’s. I have been in the medical field all my adult life and have seen much suffering. It is very easy to end ones life naturally. All you had to do is stop water and food. This allows one to go naturally. When a person is in a coma or veg state they will go peacefully. The gun or meds is not the way to end it. This goes against God’s will.

  8. Dennise Ziaja says:

    Years ago a co-worker’s husband was in a head on car accident and had a severe closed head injury. The doctors told her that his brain stem had been damaged and there was no hope for his recovery. She came to me seeking advice…should she shut off life support. I felt uncomfortable giving her any advice since this was a life changing situation. I told her honestly that if it were my husband, I know he would not want to live on life support and since the doc’s said it was hopeless I would tend toward pulling the plug. Aparently she couldn’t do it and her husband was comatose for about 15 days. Then he woke up. Really. He woke up and proved the doctors had made a mistake. Well, I felt terrible advising her what I’d do. The husband really never was the same and had some terrible medical side effects. I think about what she continues to go through with his issures and wonder if I could have handled it. I don’t give advice anymore on anything!!!!

  9. ZoAnn Lapinsky says:

    I agree, too, Nick. As far as I know, the “experiment” in Oregon has been going along without any wrongful deaths. I understand that a lot of terminally ill get the prescription “just in case” and never use it. It is a comfort, just like that last bullet.

    My objection is to people who use their religion to prevent others from availing themselves of this comfort. If it is against your religion, then don’t do it. Let everyone else run their own lives, just as you want to run yours. Simple.

  10. Jim@HiTek says:

    Although I am a full timer and don’t need to maintain a residency in Oregon, I do just because of that suicide law. I want to be able to choose my own way of dieing when the time comes, if it come like that.

    For those that agree with the death with dignity law and might consider moving to Oregon for that reason, I believe you must be a resident for a year before you can ask for a lethal dose. At least in Oregon.

    For those who believe the Dignity law should be overturned with a federal law, MYOB. It’s our law, I supported it, I voted for it, you don’t like it? Tough. You don’t have to live in Oregon.

    For those that think it’s terrible to put a doctor in that position, get over it. Last survey about this issue I saw of doctors said that 80% of them had done something in their professional lives that hastened the death of a patient. On purpose, in order to alleviate the patients suffering. Doing that is already the de facto methodology. Adding a prescription pad to the equation only helps them do their job in a caring and adult way, and makes it legal, thus accountable (no more creepy ‘Angles of Mercy’ who make the decision without consultation with anyone).

    To those of you ignorant of the Oregon law, or it’s effectiveness; there must be three unrelated doctors that approve. The doctors cannot be coerced or required to be involved in any way. The patient must be evaluated for depression. The patient must wait for a period, then reiterate their request for assistance. Everything must be in writing. Many who get the prescription don’t even use it, they just need to know it’s there. Oregon’s palliative care, especially with pain abatement has really improved since the law. And the stats bear this out, over a decade of the law, through 2007, only 541 got the prescription, and a scant 341 used it. Out of the thousands who finished their lives during that period.

    Those that invoke a mythical creature that lives in the sky who supposedly might have something to say about all this, I only ask one thing. Prove it. There is a reason 75% of the USofA population doesn’t go to any house of god except for weddings or funerals; medieval myths just aren’t needed to answer today’s questions. Those that use this device to hold back enlightened progress do humanity much harm, and I hope you hold your tongue when the right to die proponents begin working in your state.

  11. JB says:

    Food for thought Nick. Your blog and the comments of all the others have given me something to ponder.

  12. Karen Knoll says:

    When I was 9 years old, I watched my beloved mother die from pancreatic cancer. She had great faith and was in great pain. She suffered with dignity and courage and died at home in her own bed surrounded by her loving family. During my life I have spoken with others whose loved ones have committed suicide by hanging, walking in front of a train, shotgun to the head, etc. The horrific memories they have lived with and continue to live with all their lives are their own private hell. There is always help available for those who are suffering from depression, terminal illness, etc. I find it difficult to understand how anyone could put the burden of that suicide on their loved ones.

  13. al hesselbart says:

    I became a supporter of Dr Kevorkian’s standards, which are considerable, when my father spent nearly a year dying of inoperable metastisized brain cancer. to watch that brilliant man, now 85, who had worked on the manhatten project and who held several patents as a pioneer in the plastics industry regress to spending the last 8 or 10 weeks of his life as a 1 year old barely able to speak a full sentence and having to have his diaper changed by a teenaged babysitter from hospice while he cried in embarassment was enough to have me beg for giving him the dignity to die without further emotional torture. North Carolina denied him that.

  14. Linda Sand says:

    If you decide to finish your own life with pills be careful who you tell. My friend in Minnesota wound up in the hospital on life support because the cops got to him before he finished dying. It took the family several days to get up the nerve to pull the plug so they wound up with a big, unnecessary medical bill. Fortunately, my friend was never conscious so never knew.

  15. Connie Braidh says:

    Peter and I both have living wills(Florida)which state our wishes. We both know where we are going in the next phase of existence and do not fear the next phase in heaven. We just don’t want to suffer on the way to get there. To all against euthanasia (ex Oregon which has a very good law) I would say that most of us alive now would have been dead some years back without modern medicine. Peter would have died of appendicitis in his 30s and I would have been dead in my late 50s from breast cancer. To extend life when there is every chance of quality of life is one thing. But to keep people alive when the end is inevitable is terrible. We end our pets lives when it is time. And you can tell when it is time. It would be animal cruelty to keep them alive. I think the same thing applies to humans. Many doctors LET the patient die; ex. as much morphine as the patient wants. What do you think massive doses of morphine do to you?. Hospice helps to let you die with dignity.
    My father said to me about 4 months before he died, “Connie, I’m ready to go.” Yes, I knew he was dieing. He knew he was dieing and was ready but there was NOTHING I could do to help him because euthanasia is not OK in Florida. So he died slowly and in some pain even though hospice did their best. He should at least have had the option to decide for himself (yes, he was alert, competent and almost 88 years old).
    I think many people are afraid of euthanasia because they are afraid of their own responses. Did I kill Dad? Maybe he would have been OK? What if they find the cure tomorrow, how would I feel about letting Dad die now? So they keep the patient alive just in case and so they feel no guilt at the death. I still feel badly that there was nothing I could do for my Dad. I had to let him suffer or do something illegal which I and he didn’t want me to do. Peter and I hope the society becomes more enlightened by the time it is our turn to go.
    “Life is a temporary assignment. No one gets out of life alive.”

  16. Michele says:

    Several years back my grandmother, who lived alone in the mountains, had a stroke one night while taking food out of the oven. She layed partly in the oven the whole night until she was found the next day. Her dog attempted to pull her out during the night and caused serious damage to her arms. She had severe burns over the upper part of her body. The hospital said she would not live long and released her to be taken home to die. She was in a vegetative state and needed around the clock care. After 6 months medicare stopped paying for her care because they said she should have died by then. She lived for 16 months from the time of the stroke until finally her heart stopped. In the end they listed her cause of death as starvation and dehydration because they could no longer get an IV in her arm. I spent a substantial time with my grandmother growing up and know that this is not what she would have wanted. She was a strong woman who insisted on being independent. Unfortunately, she didn’t write down her wishes. This is why I made sure that I have a living will but even that, unfortunately, doesn’t allow someone to help me die so I make sure all my family and friends know that I don’t want to live like that and can only hope that if that day comes someone will help me die with dignity.

  17. Barbara says:

    Everyone should have the right to decide what to do with their life. If I had a terminal illness I hope there will be a place to go to end it peacefully. I couldn’t do suicide would be afraid it wouldn’t work. I had a friend that always said if she got a terminal illness she would take some pills, well she did and she didn’t and she suffered terribly. I always wanted to ask her why she didn’t end her life the easy way. At my age I have done mostly everything and if I died tomorrow I have has a great life, with no regrets.

  18. Jim, Is your primary purpose to advocate for death with dignity, or to ridicule those who have religious faith?

    I’m a Christian, and yet I agree with a good deal of what you said in the first five paragraphs. Even if I disagreed I would support your position. If a person believes in individual liberty, and wants to protect that liberty, they MUST support the rights of others whether they agree or not.

    Clearly there are many things that the residents of individual states have the right to decide. The problem is that some people have always thought they “know what’s best” for everyone else and have tried to impose their will through the federal government. This imposition often removes or limits individual rights that the state is trying to protect.

    The opposite should be the case. The federal government should be protecting individual rights because our founders believed rights of individuals were unalienable.

    Declaration of Independence:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    U.S. Constitution, 9th and 10th Amendments:

    “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    Happy travels,

  19. ken turner says:

    Connie& Peter I’m with you on this! The sad part is the 75% that Jim HiTek talks about will fight it all the way.About that mythical creature that lives in the sky ‘Heaven”, I asked myself several yeare ago,when I considered myself an agnostic,What if there is even a small chance that there is a God and life after death, can I take that chance? the answer for me was NO and I have changed my thinking and my life . ps a doctor killed my wife of 47 years and there wasn’t anything wrong with her except for the 650 mg twice a day meds he gave her! The max should have been 20 mg total! Yes,he is still in business,but $1/2 mil.less in his pocket.Let the doctors families and good old common sense
    make the final call,If that what the person requested !!!Ken

  20. Bill Auld says:

    Boy am I letting this just rip. The word GOD is just that a three letter word in the English language. In every language the word for GOD is spelled in a different way, but it all comes down to the same meaning, a supreme force that brings all things into reality. Just my opinion be it right or wrong.
    Over 25 years ago I accepted Jesus and his philosophy on how to live ones life. To not try and judge but respect others views.

    Nick is right on the point that each individual should have a choice on ending their life with self respect in certain situations. Like Nicks father my Father died of lung cancer when I was the age of 20. So I have a first hand experience of this topic.

    I known that I have opened myself up to others based on my views on the above and I will accept with an open heart to any criticism.

  21. russ says:

    Hi Nick.
    i have been reading your blog for quite some time now from down here in New Zealand.i must say it makes interesting reading and a lot of what you deal with over there in the states is the same here
    now as far as this one goes the law does not allow for assisted suicide in nz but im with you and my reasoning is that modern medicine goes a long way to prolonging the suffering and as you say we would not knowingly allow a pet to suffer like that.
    keep up the good work.
    by the way i got on to your blog when i was searching out how to do a bus conversion and found your write up about yours was exelent

  22. Steve says:

    I might recommend “Welcome to the Monkey House” by Kurt Vonnegut where the government encourages the citizens to painlessly end their lives in “ethical suicide parlors.”

    Let people believe what they want. Separate church from state.
    Read our country’s founding documents.
    Corporations are not citizens. Danger here is.

  23. Jim Mossman says:

    I agree with you again “bad nick”. I do not think that you have written one editorial that I have not agree with….
    My wife and I both have the no life support in our wills. Our son has copies of the wills and knows what we want to do.

  24. d seals says:

    I came back to visit your blog. To be honest, I didn’t read much before I’m running away again. You want the right to decide to die yet you are ex military and expect a certain allegiance (sp) (conservative view) to that. When will people realize that you can’t just be a democrat or be republican. We as a country must learn to compromise and reach some agrements. We will not like everything but we leave open the chance to negotiate. It’s okay if we get our way for awhile and they get their way for awhile. Maybe I am just stupid but it doesn’t appear to change much over time. The democrats are in power and get this. Then the republicans are in power and get this.
    Our current president is no different than previous ones. It’s his way or no way. Well, we can’t make everyone happy. But I still believe we can find compromises that most of us could live with. However we must protect ourselves from having a dictator. If we let that happen we are truly doomed.
    So once again, I leave you sweetie. I’ll check back in a few months. I’m glad you and Ms Terry are doing well.

  25. Fred Wishnie says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, and even take it further. It’s my body and my life and if I choose to end it, at any time, it’s my business and none of yours.

    If you think it’s wrong, then don’t do it, but you have no right to tell me what I should do. Especially based on some mystical rule put out by the tooth fairy.

    A pox on all those who use their beliefs to dictate the lives of others.

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