Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Euthanasia: Don't worry, be happy.

I think it is important for a person or a group to anticipate or to look forward to something. Right now, I don’t have that. I’ve tried and failed, and tried and failed so often that I don’t know if I have it in me to hope for anything.

Maybe if it wasn’t so darn painful: my organs as well as my circulatory system stop functioning so often, I feel like I’m just the skin around the black pudding. Yum!

Right now, who decides when and how you die is being fought in the courts. A Victoria resident last year won in the Supreme Court the right for those in BC to choose when to die (after a year for implementation). She had the right as soon as she won the case.

Instead of getting ready for Euthanasia, the Province is suing their own judges. I don’t quite understand how that is legal, but then this IS British Columbia.

And while I am sure lots of disability groups are against it, because they use the same ‘slippery slope’ argument made against gay marriage – like how if someone with a terminal illness who uses a wheelchair has a right to consult with doctors and choose when to die, then they will allow all people with wheelchairs, or all people with disabilities, then all people with large birth defects to choose to die.

In the same way a same sex couple getting married does not mean that adult males and 10 year olds can marry or humans and barn animals; someone with ALS, or type 4 non-remission MS is quite different than SCI in terms of life span and progressive complexity of condition. And the assumption that doctors, the general public and individuals cannot tell or want to tell the difference is intelligence biase: the idea that you learned something the average person cannot, and thus must protect them against themselves.

Victoria is already sedating and killing thousands a year. There is, with the aging population, a overabundance of individuals with NO or not enough care being given to them. They are denied operations because they are high risk. A man in our building is waiting for his heart to die, as his congestive heart failure fills his legs each day with fluid. A bypass could eliminate that but he is deemed ‘too old.’ There are people in every apartment building on every street. There are 14 beds for all the palliative needs of 300,000 individuals. Which is why if the doctors or VIHA decide, a person is given TS (terminal sedation – put into a morphine coma, from which they will die in 5-10 days).

The question isn’t: are people going to be deliberately killed. It is: who should make that decision, an organization or an individual with a physician?

For anyone who wants to swap out for a couple days for some of the conditions: brain swelling, motor neuron death, many types of cancer beyond the stage 4 delay, me.

For those who advocate against Euthanasia, let me switch out, and you can have the body covered with chemical burns, a heart which won’t give a solid beat but for every 6-9 flutters, and a diaphragm that makes each breath painful. Could a diaphragm pacemaker help? Sure…if we had someone who knew how to put one in, or knew what one was.

As the local health authority says, regardless of living wills, they do no life preserving measures, at least in the home or caregiving facility. They financially need people to die. And the less they and hospitals can cover, the more people simply suffer. Unlike the US or UK, if you have no insurance, you get few drugs, and the specialist ones you may need are often not covered. The puff and sip wheelchair is not covered. A worker twice a day who doesn’t know how to shower, or hand bath you, or feed you comes, but 1 in 3 times, they are cancelled.

I have no desire to see thousands of people suffer to ensure someone locks off the top of a slippery slope argument. Late stage pain and body failure is brutal, viscous, degrading and dispiriting. The loss of any control while you feel, watch and experience major body functions melt around you is horrific.

I believe that TRUE advocates against Euthanasia would, morally, raise funds and spend time with the dying, in order to improve that quality of life. If instead the aim is to deal with the theoretical possibilties while ignoring the individual at hand they remind me of those who don’t give to starving individuals but quote: “Instead of giving a fish for one day, better to teach to fish, for a lifetime.” But they ignore the simple truth: The dead catch few fish (not that they volunteer time to teach others, just make the quote).

The way things are now, if I manage to life to next summer, we have no air cons which can cool enough. And I will suffer beyond imagination. Some days, I do anyway. It is such that if someone told me I would be tied up and someone would use a knife to carve on me, I would laugh and cry in relief, in joy. Being ripped apart on almost a cellular level goes far beyond any idea of pain I have experiences or known.

So, yeah, some days it sucks. A lot of days recently.


Neil said...

I see no problem with someone having the right to say, "I have suffered enough; it's time to go." Assuming that people have relatively decent mental faculties, and can make that judgement for themselves, then the medical profession should do no further harm, and allow them to die with dignity, at their own time of choosing.

I can understand that there would be some counselling involved, for the sick person and therelatives and friends as needed, to help everyone understand the decision, and to be sure it's the right decision in that particular case. But yes, euthanasia and assisted suicide should be allowed in Canada.

SUCH a lovely topic when I'm feeling like death slightly warmed over - I have a cold this week. :(

Love and zen hugs,

Olivia said...

I believe people should have the right to choose. I also believe it's easy for (temporarily) able bodied people, including relatives, to say 'kill me if I ever get like that' so flippantly. You (and others) have shown me that the will to live can be extremely strong and that is for no one else to question. But that said, I do believe people should be able to choose when to go. I hope we are moving towards a more humane society that can handle these things intelligently. But I do wonder if that's at all what's happening.

Anonymous said...

The disability community is concerned about the slippery slope, but not the one you describe here. The concern is that the "right to die" will become the "requirement to die". Please visit the Not Dead Yet website if you want to learn about the issue from a disability point of view.

GirlWithTheCane said...

There has to be safeguards on it to protect people, absolutely...but the fact that we don't have some sort of euthanasia law on the books is inhumane to me.

I'm so sorry that things are so difficult...

Devi said...

I don't find the words for my thoughts on the issue right now, but thank you honestly for providing your perspective, sobering (to say the least) as it may be.

JaneB said...

Oh my dear.

I don't have words, or anything to say, other than to let you know I'm listening, and trying to hear what you say and understand it. You are still a wonderful teacher, my dear friend.

Kate J said...

I believe absolutely that people should have a right to die at a time and a place and in a way of their choosing. Equally that people who do not want this shouldn't have a 'do not resuscitate' label put on them and shouldn't just be deprived of food or denied hospital treatment because they're old or have dementia or a learning disability or a mental illness. We are all human and should have equal rights, whatever.
But what makes me really angry in your case, Beth, is how much of your pain and suffering isn't because of your illness itself but seems to be due to the lack of care and support from the health services, and because doctors lose interest if they can't find a quick 'cure' or fix.
Thank you for sharing your own experiences with us and giving your unique and personal 'angle' on these (literally) life and death questions.
Love & peace

Elizabeth McClung said...

Anon: then having clear Euthenasia laws would protect any individual from being forced to die, as much as it can in a collective social medical system. Without clear laws it is left to the 'gut feeling' of able bodied individuals - which isn't the best gauge of experience for disability. I am very familiar with Not Dead Yet (and like groups) and their views since the 1990's.

To require another to have a more prolonged and more agonizing death so whatever personal or collective fear is quelled is, I believe and have always, wrong. If you want respect and equality for your choices, allow others to make the ones they want, even if you disagree, as long as it does not directly harm you. My drinking a barbituite solution after consulting doctors and specialists, confirm what can and cannot be done, and what will occur otherwise is not a "a deadly form of discrimination" against the disabled.

Maija Haavisto said...

I get very frustrated with supposed disability activists opposing euthanasia with that slippery slope argument. It's embarrassing. Slippery slopes make for very bad arguments.

And besides, the right to die is not a disability issue, it's a human right issue. Just because no one has the right to tell a disabled person that their life is a tragedy, no one has the right to diminish anyone else's suffering.

Either we own our bodies or we don't (and if we don't, then human rights can hardly exist at all...) And if we do, we have the right to die if we wish to, whether disabled or sick or not. And if only the able-bodied can commit suicide, but those who are too disabled to do it by themselves can't, now that's a real infringement of human rights, the rights of the disabled.

(Also in most countries it is legal to opt out of treatment, even if that will certainly kill you. With some conditions that will lead to an easy death, with others it will lead to death, but a very prolonged and painful one. Not exactly fair.)

Elizabeth McClung said...

Yes, thank you, a human rights issue. And to assume a disabled person who commits suicide does so because of the disability (this is the listed assumption for many of the NDY groups) eliminates the individual right to determination. Even 'quality of life' as a reason for wanting Euthenasia doesn't have to or limit to a disability - there are other high stressors like loss of family, loss of friends/partner - is Euthenasia, or suicide, ever just one thing?

But thank you, yes, a Human rights issue. I dislike so much the 'listen to us but don't listen to them' attitude of disability groups who ONLY include the dying as disabled in order to make a case of discrimination - generally no accomodation or welcoming is made for terminally ill as disabled by disabled (though as many groups are run by able bodied, hard to know if OUCH on BBC or like online disability places exclude terminal illness deliberately or in ignorance).