My last memory of my grandmother was a troubling one, standing at her bedside in the hospital; it was mortifying to see the state she was in. I would like to think the enormous amount of morphine they had given her had limited her pain; yet, there she was… her frail body writhing on the bed, clinging to life, gasping for sterile air. There was no dignity at that moment for this once proud woman who raised five rebellious children. Before her death, she struggled with treatment after treatment, always hoping for a cure; there is no cure for stage four lung cancer. The doctors continued treatment giving her hope when there was none these treatments made her more ill eventually she became bedridden. I do not know if my grandmother would have made her own personal end-of-life decision prior to her death, if it had been legal to do so at the time. If she had seen herself in that way, I am sure she would have made the choice to die with dignity. There are so many terminally ill patients out there who are dying and out of options; yet, families and doctors urge them to keep fighting a battle that they will ultimately lose. When does an individual draw line between quality of life and treatment? Do we wait for a time when there can be no final words, no heartfelt goodbyes? Should we be allowed to choose when and where we die?
Oregon, Washington, and Vermont have passed the Death with Dignity law; this allows physicians to prescribe life ending drugs to terminally ill people. Death with Dignity means taking control of a person’s terminal health situation by being allowed to die on their own terms, as the best possible solution for the individual and family. While the death may not be classed as “natural” by scientific standards it is completely natural by human standards. Brittney Maynard was one of the first women to publicly advocate for death with dignity, prior to her death on November 1, 2014. This young woman was one of the lucky ones other terminally ill people have been forced to die alone by starving themselves to death, overdosing themselves with medication, and death by helium.
In an BBC interview, famous physicist Stephen Hawking, supports the right to die with dignity. Professor Stephen Hawking who is now 73, was diagnosed with A.L.S in his teens. Despite his illness, he has made astounding contributions to the world in physics and cosmology research. In his BBC interview, with Dara O’Briain , Professor Hawking states that “To keep someone alive against their wishes is the ultimate indignity.” In the UK it is still an criminal offense to assist someone to take their own lives. The BBC interview will be aired on June 16th on BBC1 and Professor Hawking’s life story can be seen in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything” .
The mind-boggling decision of where Generation Y stands concerning their own rights regarding their own deaths, the deaths of their aging parents, and loved ones is a colossal one. As a generation of free thinking individuals, will we continue to be tolerant of law makers who force our loved ones to live out the rest of their lives suffering? Does our phobia with death push aside all reason? Death with Dignity forces us to question our standards of morality, our right to liberty, and our right for freedom. When there are no more final words, no more goodbyes, where will you stand?
This article was written by Laurell Morse, a writer for dusk magazine.