A Life Worth Living?

You would feel the same way if you saw the look in your kids’ eyes. When you can’t tell who is in more pain, you, or your wife watching helplessly. I know the arguments. I know the reasons. I used to believe them too. Believe them…hell, I preached them…

“Your life is not in your hands! It is appointed unto man once to die. Does that say it is appointed unto man once to feel sorry for himself? It is appointed unto man once to feel some pain? If God wanted you to take your life, he would have put an “easy” button on our bodies so we could check out any time the going gets rough. GOD is the one who decides. He can heal or destroy. Blessed be the name of the Lord in sickness and in health.”

Oh yeah, I believed it alright. I’ll never forget the pained look in Stephanie’s eyes after she talked to me about her mom…

“Pastor Bill, what if someone is hurting…scared…”

“You must believe. You must have faith. There is a reason that she is still here. Don’t give in to the temptation to take the easy way out. I know that it is hard, but God can heal! You can’t forget that. He can take her mind and make it sharp again. If he can stop the mouths of lions, don’t you believe he can give your momma some peace?”

“I know he can. He could…you don’t understand though. She doesn’t know who we are. She is scared of the nurses, driven to madness by the constant beeping. If she has a clear moment, she begs us to take her life. The only reason she is even alive now is because of the medications they pump into her.”

“I am sure it is hard. She needs you to be strong…”

We never did finish that conversation. That is the problem with being a pastor. There is always someone waiting in line to shake your hand and tell you “nice sermon”. She probably didn’t think I cared. I know I didn’t fully understand…

I do now though. How the accident happened, I still can’t remember, but I will never forget the look in my kids eyes when they realized I had just lost control of my bowels. The fear in my wife’s face as she realized that the church would only cover the immediate costs from the accident, not the costs of a few months of inpatient care, and a year, if I’m lucky of home health. “Health” in which I will be lucky to remember who my wife is, as the internal injuries slowly kill me. No one should have to watch their kids wipe their dad’s ass or watch their wife give up her life to care for someone whose “life” isn’t really living at all.

Hobbler’s note: I need to know any objections to assisted suicide. Also any views for it. I wrote that story as fiction, but there are many people in far worse shape than anything I can imagine. Please share your opinions. I was born to take this debate to the next level, and this is your chance to make a difference.

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36 thoughts on “A Life Worth Living?

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. Although I agree with the right to choose, where does one draw the line? Should someone be able to die just because they want to, or should there be medical issues? If there should be medical issues, which ones should they be? This is definitely not black and white to me.

    • Nothing is black and white to me, even this subject, but I think that people should be able to add an option to their living wills that allows for a lethal dose of whatever in certain situations. I have ideas in my head of what those guidelines should be. Basically, if people want to die, and they are above a certain age (like 21)…

      okay, I know this is controversial, but I think that people could easily kill themselves one way or another. If they really want to. The problem with killing yourself, (other than the effects to family members) is that everything doesn’t always go as planned. Some people are left in comas (expensive and agony prolonging for family) or they require additional care (again expensive and agony). If assisted suicide would be legal, the individual requesting it should meet with a psychiatrist first, should be required to notify their next of kin, should have to wait a few days before the dose would be given. All of those conditions would be dependant on mental status (awareness) of the individual.

      In the case of someone who is not fully aware of what is going on, if it’s in their living will then yeah, and if they hadn’t made that decision before becoming incompacitated, their family should have that option. My mom works in a nursing home, and some people literally beg her to kill them. Families shouldn’t have to go through the agony of watching their loved one suffer and die anyway, or of being charged with murder for helping that individual escape their torment. It is hard to decide which medical issues would be considered, but sanity, pain, bowel and bladder control, ability to function down the road, and desire for death should be noted.

  2. Years ago I would have sided with the religious crowd. “Your life is not in your hands!” I would have said you’re here for a reason and that taking your own life is selfish. I have a different view now. I do still think suicide (without good cause) is selfish. But who am I, who is anyone to determine what ‘good cause’ is? Who am I to dictate how you, or him, or her should live their life and then, where is the line? We euthanize our animals, our beloved pets, when they have no more quality of life and it is considered the kind thing to do. Why are people different? Is it kind to stick someone in a nursing home to slowly rot until their body finally loses its fight? I hate nursing homes…the smell, the vibe, the nearness to death and the lost eyes I see, some having no life left in them. People keep other people alive out of selfish reasons.

    I don’t have all the answers and there’s so much about this that I haven’t thought about, that’s too uncomfortable to think about but I live my life now with the creed, “to each his own.” Your life is yours to live as you see fit as is mine and I guess that should be applicable to death as well.

    • Well said Lilly. I think it is crazy how we can “administer” the death penalty in a humane manner, but poor old grandpa has to sweat it out. This subject is probably the “issue” I care most about. Some of my family and friends feel very differently, and I have tried to see things their way, but I can’t change how I feel about the core issue…

      • I would thing without a cause to seriously think about this, one’s perspective would be very different than someone facing a known disease and who can sort of see into the future in regards with what to expect. Makes death a little more real and tangible, I would think, under those circumstances.The rest of us…we don’t like to think about it.

        • I think about suicide daily. I have sin ce I was a teen. I won’t do it…at least not now, but life hurts. It hurts me and I am not burned over 80% of my body. I know the humiliation of bodily functions being uncontrollable. I have it easy though. There are people who want to fight through their diseases, or injuries, but when you don’t want to fight…when you have fully lost the battle…denying it is wrong. Period. If convicts were forced to die like many “upstanding citizens” are, there would be a public outcry. People would be marching in the streets. Same with animals…

  3. I think that people who are terminal and in pain should be allowed to die on their own terms. If someone has an illness which will have a slow ever more debilitating physical or mental decline, such as Huntington’s, or Parkinson’s or dementia, he should be allowed to make that choice before the disease progresses to such advanced stages. Of course, technically, we’re all terminal.

    • I love your sense of humor Sandy. It is true though, we are all terminal, and it is insane how people are forced to live when they aren’t really living. Another thing that really bothers me is the relationships that are destroyed when people have to care for a loved one who wants/needs to die. The constant tension and fear. The guilt in caretaking and in wishing occasionally that they would just die. No one wants to say they wish that, but I think we all know that if our loved one was in horrible pain or so depressed…there should be guidelines in place that allow it. Having family and friends to say goodbye and watch someone slip gently away is much better than the shock of a gunshot to the head, or the slow agonizing death due to an illness.

  4. I am in favor of whatever a person decides is best for him/herself, as sad as it might be. There’s nothing noble in suffering, nothing noble in prolonging someone’s life artificially when there’s really nothing left. I can’t possibly judge someone for making a choice when they’re faced with interminable pain, progressive loss of function, etc. To me it seems more dignified to be able to choose how and when to end it, rather than being hooked up to machines or being forced to just decline until there’s just nothing left.

    • It is more dignified, and I am so glad that so many people see that! I think that our culture might be almost ready for this debate to be brought to the forefront. There are just too many reasons why, and so many people are suffering needlessly each day.

  5. Wow, i guess I’m in the minority here..but I don’t believe in assisted suicide.I think that if a person is in medical crisis..that is when a ‘living will’ and DNR is appropriate and applicable and with pain medication no one needs to suffer in their last days. My brother fell into that category with cancer throughout. But suicide is suicide whether it’s done by oneself or with help…It is not pleasant or easy by any means to watch one’s loved ones languish in a nursing home. I watched my mother for the last couple of years basically just in her bed and not participating in life…but I could not ‘take’ her life away from her or to assist her IF she was capable of doing so would also not be thinkable for me. I will tell you that I am a Christian so that has an effect on what I believe but aside from that it is too much of a slippery slope when we start allowing/then deciding who/when/why should be allowed/assisted to die. So I guess my opinion is opposite to the majority but I just don’t believe in it. Oh there is one thing that I don’t think should be mandatory and that is to take extraordinary measures to keep a person alive who has no chance of surviving the terminal illness that they have. What extraordinary is …is left open to interpretation also. If one is on life support it is removed when there is no chance of recovery of brain function as an example of what is in place now. Are there other extraordinary measures that could not be taken….probably….Diane

    • Thank you so much for offering your alternative view. I understand that there are a lot of different reasons you feel the way you do. You mentioned that you are a christian. What do you feel are the biggest Biblical/moral/christian objections to the idea of assisted suicide?

      • As a Christian I believe God gives life and it is only up to Him to decide when our time has ended here on earth. There has and always will be suffering and trials while here…some more than others. I believe totally in compassionate ‘care’ of those suffering and that people should be given as much help in alleviating pain..but ultimately only God should have the authority in this matter. We’re talking here of suicide and assisted suicide. There are scriptures that basically say what I have summarized but I’m not going to quote them here. I might add that assisted suicide would be tantamount to ‘murder’ in my beliefs. Sorry, I know that’s not the answer many would want to hear….Diane

        • This whole topic is something people don’t want to hear, so don’t worry about that. I can see why assisted suicide could be considered murder…The main story from the Bible that I think of was I believe with Saul. Didn’t he ask his assistant whatever to kill him? There was someone who did, and the guy wouldn’t kill the king, so he killed himself and then the king killed himself, so 2 suicides instead of one assisted suicide; but from what I can tell, the entire thing was wrong. Definitely not the way it should have been. I’m pretty sure it was Saul. There was also Hannah right? She wouldn’t kill her son, but she didn’t want to hear him die. God saved the boy, etc. Oh yeah, and Isaac…God stopped Abraham from killing him, although God set up the whole thing to test his faith. Oh, and Job wished he had never been born, but he didn’t ask to die, although his wife wanted him to. Anyway, those stories are all Old Testament, and in the Old Testament there was also Tamar (messed up story) and the stuff with Noah before he died…point being, there was a lot of stuff then that is different from now. The same diseases that would have killed people then are “managed” now.

          I spoke with my MIL about this topic and she wrote me a paper with Bible verses, etc. I have it somewhere, but I need to review the reasoning again. She most definitely felt that it would be murder, and she thought it was selfish for the suicide victim to get someone to “help” in that way. That, in her mind, was sentencing the “helper” to a life of guilt even if it had been legal. Another great christian friend gave me some very good reasons why she considered it wrong too. There are a lot of people that feel strongly, and I think there is truth and very important considerations on both sides.

  6. This was bleeping intense!!! I think there is most surely a need for assisted suicide. Our attitude of making doctors keep people alive at all costs is just sick. My best friend died of a brain tumor and cancer. His only out were the brave people of the home hospice care group, and all they could say was, “if he happened to take too many of these pills… (wink, wink)…” It just sucks that Jack Kavorkian decided to put himself up as the spokesman for this cause, because he was creepy… I wouldn’t buy a used car from that guy.

  7. Wow… meaty post!

    I believe that a protocol for assisted suicide be put in place for adults capable of informed consent and the patient himself be the one to initiate the decision-making process to end their life.

    I’m most comfortable with AS in the case of someone terminally ill experiencing pain or suffering from laboured breathing. I’m less comfortable with AS as a solution in the case where mental degeneration is the primary issue, and am very uncomfortable with AS for early stage disease where remission is a distinct possibility, depression independent of terminal or chronic disease, or in the case of those not able to give consent (such as children or those without a living will and unable to speak for themselves). The planning and administration of AS should be by specially trained medical personnel.

    I respectfully disagree that the interval between request and carrying out AS should be a few days… I think that it should be longer than that except, possibly, in extraordinary cased such as severe trauma, inevitable painful and degenerative death (like polonium poisoning), etc.

    Holland, Switzerland, and Germany all have legal AS, but I’m not well informed as to the protocol they are required to observe.

    • Yeah, the issue with using it for depression is a touchy one. There are some benefits, such as if they had to notify family, and had to see a psychiatrist, depressed patients might need that anyway, but I can totally see how there would be a lot of conflict with that option.

      It should definitely be administered by trained medical personnel.

      I can see your point about the timeframe. I was thinking about the situations where the person is in a lot of pain, but there would need to be guidelines in place for sure.

      I need to look into the countries you mentioned and how well they work.

  8. Except for certain situations, I think that time is necessary for someone to fully consider AS and to explore all of their options with medical experts or other unbiased professionals.

    Depression causes people to isolate themselves from others and the solution is sometimes quite simple, like addressing the situation that made you depressed in the first place, changing one’s routine, or even just having someone to talk to. I was depressed for years, but its insidious nature blinded me from realizing that I was capable of breaking the pattern myself. Suicide did cross my mind but I never considered it (I hope you appreciate the distinction I’m trying to make here). I still get depressed, for a day or two, and just see it as an old dark friend that has come for a short visit. I now know the secret to evicting him anytime I want, but he’s “comfortable” in a strange way so I’ll let him stay a while.

    I understand that other people’s depression is a whole different torturous animal that lingers in spite of treatment and medication, but such therapies sometimes require a lot of time before they begin producing positive results and depression (and certain other mental states) clouds decision making so a quick way out for purely psychological problems is very uncomfortable to me.

    In the case of many terminal or degenerative conditions, the patient is aware of the inevitable and has a lot of time to weigh their options. If AS is one they wish to consider, they have time to figure out how to tell their friends and family and to allow those close to them to get used to, and plan for, their death before pain or incapacity has put everything into a context of desperation.

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