Wednesday, April 13, 2005

More about assisted suicide

Apparently California's proposed law, which was passed by Assembly committee after much debate and some amendments, contains all sorts of safeguards against coercion, etc.

This was the topic of some heated discussion in our household this morning, as the older members were forced to endure my rant against the ridiculous notion of "death with dignity". Eldest Son gave an eloquent and thought-provoking impromptu speech about the example that Christ set for Christians in His death. Did He die with dignity?

Perhaps we need to rethink this whole concept of dignity.

The older offspring snorted in derision over the alleged safeguards against coercion. They immediately came up with all sorts of scenarios in which seemingly loving family members were pressuring a hypothetical suffering person to "die with dignity", all the while not meeting any legal definition of coercion.

"I can't stand to see you suffer like this! I just love you too much! I'm not going to be able to visit you any more because I prefer to remember you the way you used to be, when you were well and full of life."

" there anything I can do to help alleviate your suffering?"

"Do you really want to go on suffering like this?"

"It is so hard for us to watch you lose all dignity." (Which, we laughed, would seem a ridiculous thing to say to the average American, given that so many Europeans have asked, over the years, "Do Americans have no sense of dignity whatsoever?!")

"You don't have to go on suffering like this, you know..."

"We really want to do the compassionate thing and offer you the ability to choose how to die."

Frankly, if I was writhing in pain and surrounded by weepy, overwrought people urging me to "let them do the compassionate thing", I'd be tempted to order a round of lethal painkillers for us all. (Not really, so you don't have to start emailing everyone claiming that I'm now advocating suicide AND murder, and have really gone over to "the other side".)

Eldest Son pointed out how convenient assisted suicide can be. He said that, when I'm near death, I should plan my "death with dignity" so that my funeral will fit nicely into everyone's schedules. After all, isn't that what "compassion in dying" is all about? Why should the dying people be so selfish as to drag out their illnesses, squandering everyone's rightful inheritances on medical bills, forcing loved ones to watch them suffer, and then---as the final act of selfishness---inconveniencing everyone by dying without consulting the schedules of loved ones?

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