Right to Live — Right to Die

I was going through boxes of papers the other day and came across the article shared below. This was written a year or so after my grandfather’s death in March of 1985.

It’s called “Right to Die” today; then it was termed “Mercy Killing” or “Euthanasia.” It was a rather unpopular and frowned upon subject.  Even today discussing ‘end of life’ or ‘what happens if …’ is only marginally better today — 30 years later.

We are still a culture obsessed with being ‘young & beautiful. We don’t want to thik of growing old; never mind that medical advances make it possible to live an active, healthy life just by taking some care of ourselves.

We do ourselves, our friends and our children a major disservice by turning our backs on ‘what might happen’ or not making an effort to think about our date with Death.  It’s a date we all must keep.

So here is what I wrote in 1986 – 1987 for an English class; my views on the subject haven’t changed.

Mercy Killing – Euthanasia – right or wrong? Should people be allowed the right to die, or should heroic measures be used to preserve physical existence when a person has no hope of living a functional life?’

Those in favor of mercy killing hold that a person has the right to die in dignity without the use of heroic measures to sustain life. They contend that it is not living to be tied to life support systems when hope for true recover has gone; nor is it fair to the person or his family.  It is a human being’s right to choose to ‘pull the plug’ if there is no real hope left for a person stricking by Stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, Cancer, or other debilitating conditions.

Those opposed to mercy killing claim that no one has the right to play God. They believe that medical science exists to save lives and any techniques that keeps a person alive should be employed. The sanctity of human life is to be preserved no matter what the cost.  After all, there is always a chance for a miracle cure or drug that will restore a person to a normal life after a massive stroke, etc. Mercy killing or Euthanasia violates that ethic by not allowing medical science to do everything it can to preserve life at any cost.

Having had to face this issue head on, I am in favor of mercy killing in certain conditions. My grandfather was the victim of a stroke (affecting his right side) about 6 years ago, which confined him to a wheelchair. About a year ago, a second major stroke caused him to be hospitalized; a week later a third major stroke left him totally incapacitated. He could no longer communicate, feed himself, recognize family or friends, or take care of personal needs. My grandmother, mother, aunt and uncles faced the difficult decision: Do we allow him death with dignity or do we allow the machines to keep him alive? The choice was made to let him go; he survived for eight more days (the doctors gave him three) due to an excellent physical constitution. By allowing him his wish to die with dignity and no use of heroic measures, we remember him as the active, vital person he had been, not the shell that remained after all the strokes. I reserve for myself the right to die with dignity should I now longer be able to live without heroic measures due to a stroke or massive brain injury.  If there is no real hope of being restored to a functional lifestyle, I don’t want to live strapped to a machine via tubes and wires.”