Do we have a 'right to die'?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by LucyJ, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    My close friend's husband is in the end stages of pancreatic cancer. I feel so helpless to help her through this. I know it will get even worse before the end. They have been together about 4 years and married in a rush last month after he was diagnosed. My father died from this horrible illness, in 1991, many years ago, but this has brought back a lot of memories of that terrible time, suffering, horror, the relief when he finally let go and passed away.

    In the UK there is currently a debate about assisted suicide in such cases. There are strong arguments on both sides. Humanity and empathy seems to be sometimes forgotten by those who set themselves up on a high moral ground.

    is there any right way or correct answer?
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I think you should be able to. I think it's legal in some states. However, it is not the talk of the town here in the US. To be honest, Americans in general (certainly not all) tend to be rather apathetic about these types of issues, which is probably why so few of us vote in the Presidential elections. I care about politics and love to debate, but I have learned that it's better not to bring up controversial issues to other people. I'm sure that many people have religious objections to both suicide and assisted suicide, but I'm ok with both. You can't really stop suicide anyway and I knew a man who killed himself because he had an incurable, painful disease. I mean...kind of silly to try to stop people from doing what they can do whether or not it is legal. And family's do assist in suicide at times, but they don't tell anyone about it. I did read a good book about a man who shot his schizophrenic daughter because she was so unhappy. He did not get caught.

    Since the US is a fairly religious country, often debates like this boil down to that.
  3. Dixies_fire

    Dixies_fire Member

    I don't think it will ever be legal in the us and certainly people have many different opinions on it but I don't believe that people who commit suicide are damned and I certainly don't think continued suffering in such cases as cancer do anyone least of all the patient any good. I am not even a hundred percent sure that suicide means you are mentally ill, sometimes things really ARE actually that bad and people don't want to live the rest of their life hurting in such a way.

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  4. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    It seems to me it should be your choice. I watched my best friend's mom, who was like a mother to me, slowly die from brain cancer. She lingered so long, even when the nursing home doctors put her in a private room and called the family, stating it wouldn't be long, it was nearly 24 hours of sitting at her bedside as she gasped. She would not have wanted her kids to witness that and there was no reason for her to linger. My sister-in-law's mother recently passed after five years of complete incoherence due to Alzheimer's. I wish I could write my wishes down and legally have them carried out. I would ask that in either of those circumstances, death be hurried along.
  5. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    We should have the right to choose the time and the manner of our passing. Having said that, I think the question becomes how to avoid having someone else or worse yet, some government entity, making those decisions for us.

    It is a slippery slope.

    How do we decide which medical treatments are to be applied or withheld? And more importantly, who decides, and on what criteria?

    Even now, we question who among us has the right to define the quality of someone else's life. Remember the Terry Shiavo (?) case?

    Each side fervently believed they were right.

    As medical care (and costs) continue to advance, these are questions that will have to be addressed.

    So yes, I believe we have the right to end our lives.

    The issue coming for all of us is going to be whether there is a right not to die...and at what cost to society.

    There again, the issue will be defining the meaning of that term, quality of life.

  6. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    I watched my father starve to death for a month. He had Parkinson disease and could no longer swallow. His shaking was so violent that even with a feeding tube he was unable to receive enough nourishment. It was inhumane. He died in a VA hospital. We were there round the clock. The nursing staff only came in every 4 hours to take vitals and check to see if he was still producing urine. He was aware of what was going on until the last day of his life.
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I firmly agree I have the right to decide when I no longer want to be here and in fact, I have a plan in place. No, its not legal and I wont have anyone else help me. I have a chronic pain condition which if nothing happens will just get progressively worse. When I can no longer handle the pain and/or my life is nothing anymore I will just check out. This has nothing to do with being bipolar. Several of my doctor's know about this and they understand.

    My mother also died after having Alzheimer's and I refuse to go through that. I have told Tony that should I ever find out I have the beginning stages of that not to expect me to last one more day. I will not put my kids through what we went through with her.
  8. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    I'm going to speak bluntly.

    Many docs in the US have a heart and while they may not openly assist in the death of a patient....they do find ways to assist.

    The public has much trouble with this issue unless they've ever had a loved one suffer through a horrible prolonged death. I suppose this is understandable. It is a fine line to walk. Can a patient accurately judge? Will docs be overly eager? Will insurance companies use this as a way to increase profits by not having to pay out for terminal care?

    I've never seen a doctor without moral issues concerning aiding a patient to end their suffering, I've also never seen one take those steps lightly. I've yet to see a patient inaccurately judge.......patient's know, they're living it, it's THEIR quality of life (or lack thereof) that is in debate. Insurance companies might be another matter all together. Having a Living Will and such help.......but it's not quite the same thing.

    We are kind and compassionate enough to end an animals suffering. Yet we can't extend the same level of kindness and compassion to a human being. This is a very touchy subject for me as I've watched too many patients and people I love suffer through long painful agonizing deaths....begging to die toward the end. It's just wrong in so many ways.

    Quality vs quantity is at the very core of this debate. There are many who believe life no matter what the conditions should take precedence and be vehemently protected. Quality of that life doesn't factor into it. Unfortunately there does come a point in human suffering, especially with certain illnesses and conditions, when the quality of life drops so low that the person enduring it is living through what would qualify as torture........24 / literally becomes a living hell on earth........there is no pleasure, no joy, not even comfort......they can't find peace. Far too many people linger in this stage for months, some for a couple of years.

    A less severe example of quality vs quantity:

    I had a patient once, she was in her 80's, diabetic with renal failure and was a nursing home patient. To look at her you'd think nothing was wrong with her....except that the poor sweet woman was utterly miserable. Due to the renal failure she was on fluid restriction (too much fluid her kidneys couldn't process causing all sorts of nasties including heart failure) This poor woman would literally beg for a drink.....just a sip please.....every single chance she got. She was dry as a bone thirsty ALL THE TIME. If she thought someone wasn't looking.......silent tears would slip down her cheeks. The woman was in her 80s for pete's sake. How much longer (with her dxes) did she have to live anyway, maybe a year or so? Dear God in heaven give the poor woman a drink. Yup, it would cause other horrible things........but most people have no clue what it is like to be perpetually thirsty. omg Fortunately for her there was kind staff and they would sneak her sips through out the day when given the chance. Having renal failure and diabetes her diet was severely restricted. There she sat in a nursing home......really wasn't up to doing anything except sit in a chair. Gee, that is just something to make you eager to wake up in the morning. The woman is DYING, they're just dragging it out.

    I told my girls when my disease reaches that point if they don't bring me water or try to keep me from it I may strangle them.
  9. dstc_99

    dstc_99 Well-Known Member

    I firmly believe we should have that right.
  10. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I took care of a patient once whose very religious wife refused to allow him to have pain medication. Once we learned why he was refusing pain medications, we began giving them after she had left.

    She learned what we were doing and convinced him he was rebelling against the will of God every time he allowed us to give him anything for pain.

  11. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    I think you're talking about two very different things here. I don't believe that someone has a "right to die" just because they don't believe that their life is worth living any more. Many young people go though some very trying times and will seek that "permanent solution" to a "temporary problem". Both of my children have attempted suicide in the past over relationships that ended badly - my daughter once, my son twice - and almost succeeded. They are now both happy functioning adults and the failed relationships are barely a blip on their radar, a distant bad memory.

    But it's an entirely different thing if it's an adult with a terminal disease, someone in constant pain and suffering with no hope of getting any better. I believe these people should be allowed to make this decision for themselves. When my mother was diagnosed with very advanced terminal cancer, we were asked if we wanted measures taken when her condition worsened. Telling them "no" was the hardest thing I've every done but I know that it was the decision she would have made for herself if she were able to. Chemo, at that point would have possibly given her a few more months, time that she would have spent in pain in a hospital bed. Had she been given the option of ending her suffering sooner, I firmly believe she would have done it. My beloved great aunt was the most vital, alive person I've ever known. She ended up in a nursing home, dying very slowly and painfully of bone cancer, in constant agony, with her hands tied down so she couldn't pull out all the needles and tubes that were keeping her alive, all the while begging them to just let her die. To me it's absurd that you are considered heartless and cruel to let a beloved pet suffer in agony if there is no hope that they will get better but you are not allowed to extend this same kindness to a terminally ill human being who has made this decision for themselves.
  12. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    Many thanks for all your thoughtful and thought-provoking input.

    Here's what's happening in the UK currently:

    I can't see anything changing here any time soon, but hope things will have moved out of the Dark Ages before my time comes.
  13. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Some places in the US have end of life assistance... My mother's friend is going through it right now. She is miserable, and there is no cure for ALS. She cannot move, can barely even communicate... She is thinking about it, but isn't quite ready.

    I think it should always depend on the situation and there should always be more than one person to help, though.
  14. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    My friend's husband died last week.

    So sad.
  15. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I hope his end was as easy and painless as possible.

    I think that as adults we should ALL have the right to decide when and how to die I a sure a time will come when I reach that decision and end things myself.

    What MANY if not most people do not know until it is too late, is that in some states your living will does not matter if you are not of sound mind or it can be argued that you are not of sound mind. In my state if you lose your ability to think and/or communicate, and you do not have a durable medical power of attorney in addition to a living will and an advanced directive, NONE of your wishes matter one teensy bit. You will be resuscitated and kept alive because you didn't know all the facts and are not capable of making decisions once your condition worsened. A doctor who helps your family end your suffering generally will lose his license. Here they DO go after the doctors who help as most of our hospitals are owned by various religious corporations/churches/whatever you call it.

    Be very sure that you speak with an attorney and someone with experience with this issue long before you need this sort of assistance.

    Even with a do not resuscitate order on file and all legal, we had to have someone present with the paperwork every time my grandma needed medical care. This was in HD's state. Without that paperwork, she would have HAD to have a tube placed and a ventilator used during her last ride to the hospital. Other things would have been done also, things she did NOT want done under any circumstance. My uncle was the one who's name was on the papers, and he had to show up within an hour of her entering the hospital or all those tubes and machines would have had to have been hooked up. Once in, there has to be a judge called to remove them. Thankfully my uncle lived very close and kept copies of the paperwork everywhere so that they could be produced and he could be called. We were all truly shocked at all of this. We thought that you filled out the papers and that was it. Even with the DNR and other papers, some doctors will push to have the extra measures taken anyway.

    Thank you for bringing this up. I need to talk to my mom about this.
  16. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member


    I hope you manage to find some peace of mind about this.
  17. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    In Oregon and Washington there is a "right to death with dignity". It's a very complicated process with lots of hoops to jump through which very few people are eligible for (your friend would be if she wanted) and even fewer choose to apply for. Only about 60% of the people who get the prescription actually use it.

    We had to vote on this twice and then the legislature had to step in to get it done. The first time we voted for it, John Ashcroft came in and said he was certain that we didn't understand what we were voting for because it was one of those "yes" if you don't approve/"no" if you do approve ballot questions. So it was overturned and it got on the ballot again. (Oregon has a ballot initiative process, which is true democracy in motion, but I digress...) When it was passed the second time, Ashcroft came back with the "A doctor can do no harm!" argument and actively threatened to jail any doctor or pharmacist participating. Then the legislature finally got it's act together and passed an airtight law.

    I think it's the right thing to do. Doctors (and family members) are faced with this decision all of the time, every day. To my mind if the patient can't make that choice, it makes them murderers and no one should have to be that to help someone who is dying and in unbearable pain. Let people make a choice.
  18. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    {{Hugs}} Lucy.

    Thought provoking topic, and near and dear to our hearts. Most of us have dealt with this issue. It is excruciating to watch a loved one die a painful, drawn-out death.

    I agree with-Cedar: "We should have the right to choose the time and the manner of our passing. Having said that, I think the question becomes how to avoid having someone else or worse yet, some government entity, making those decisions for us.
    It is a slippery slope."

    We are, in general, more humane toward our pets than we are to our families. Then again, who wants to take responsibility? I would if I could be 100% certain that I knew the person's mind and wishes. Not many people I can say that about.