Monday, March 8, 2010

assisted suicide

Anyone catch the Frontline episode on PBS this week? It was about an American man living in northern England who went to Switzerland for assisted suicide. He had ALS, or Lou Gerig's disease. ALS is a monster of an illness.

I was thinking about how our dog is getting really old and losing his eyesight, etc. and how it seems to be okay for many people to consider euthanasia for dogs, but when it comes to people there is controversy.

I've read books and seen other programs/documentaries on assisted suicide and have always been okay with it. I wonder if it's because I'm a sociologist, or because I trust that people know themselves and their limitations regardless of what others might think about them or their situation.

I saw a documentary about people in Denmark or Norway (can't remember which) were going to seminars to find out how to be prepared to commit suicide if their lives reached a point where they could no longer care for themselves.

These seminars were (perhaps still are) very popular.

I wonder how much of someone's opposition to this has to do with religious indoctrination and cultural traditions about death. These people obviously were not so concerned with committing a sin or a cultural taboo that they stayed home from these workshops.

Even though CFS is debilitating it is not paralyzing. I'm sure most CFS patients would be turned down by the people in Switzerland that help people with assisted suicide. My point here is not to advocate that anyone with CFS try to do this. I'm simply wondering about the feeling that people have when they feel like they have no control over their life. Absolutely no control.

My thoughts are about allowing someone to live and die with dignity. We spend our lives with this illness wishing for other people to understand what it is we are dealing with on a daily basis. Isn't this what people in horrible pain are doing when they believe they cannot continue?

I'm simply wondering.

The man in the Frontline piece said that people argue that assisted suicide is like someone trying to play God when they make a decision to end their life before God wills it. His counterpoint was that doctors are playing God when they save a premature infant or step in to save anyone that would otherwise die without help. This man used a breathing apparatus and said that he would likely die without it so how is that not playing God.

I wondered why people only think someone is playing God when it comes to death or someone dying, but not when it comes to life or keeping someone alive. Is God only about life but not death? I would think He is about both. Of course, I also believe that physical death is only temporary. I don't believe that something can become nothing.

I'm mostly fascinated by how people think they know God. In one breath He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present in the lives of everyone; and then, in the next breath a person claims to know everything about God. Who are they to know everything about a God that is all-knowing?

So, this is not a post about who thinks they know or don't know God's will when it comes to life or death. This is a post about dignity and living with an illness that takes away feelings of control. How close are we to these people who are so desperate? Has our illness taught us anything about compassion?

No comments: