Compelled by a video we posted of a woman struggling to end her suffering with assisted suicide, a reader shares his own story:
Like many Americans, I have conflicted feelings about state-assisted suicide. I am well aware of the nasty history of euthanasia in Germany, and I find disturbing the contemporary reports you noted on the approval of assisted suicide in Belgium for the mentally ill and minors.
Yet too often, it seems, the process of dying in America is bound up in a perverse Christian-inspired narrative that imbues extensive suffering with righteousness, purification, and courage. One does not simply die of cancer or genetic disease in the United States. Instead one “loses a long battle” or succumbs after “a brave struggle.” Even outside the context of sincere religious objection to assisted suicide, those who do not wish to spend their last days in agony or a shadow of their former selves are seen as somehow cowardly, weak, or disturbed.
End-of-life care in this country is rife with contradictions. For the terminally ill, suicide is frowned upon, and assisting them is illegal. It is perfectly acceptable, however, for the terminally ill to refuse or stop medical treatment, or to choose to enter hospice care and die at home. Instead of talking about the nasty business of dying slowly from a terminal illness, we talk about slippery slopes, hypothetical mad doctors pressuring their patients to save the state money by ending it all, or the sanctity of life, as if dying slowly of cancer was a blessing compared to these frightening alternatives.
When my grandfather was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in early 2009, he wanted to fight.