Saturday, September 21, 2013

Euthanasia -- A Personal Matter

Debate: euthanasia for or against?

Okay first thing we need to do is define terms. Euthanasia means different things to different people.

A few examples:


To negative eugenicists, and that included the Nazis, it meant actually killing people who were living happy lives, but were mentally retarded, had neurological diseases, or other problems which troubled not them, but the people around them.  The Nazis learned about positive and negative eugenics in their early years by sending a group of United States to study our practices in that area. We didn't murder people, of course, but we did force people to undergo sterilization so they wouldn't pass on their weaknesses on to the next generation.  

It is one of the most disgusting things this country ever did, but most Americans don't even know we did it.  As a country we are very ashamed of it, so we usually manage to overlook it in our history books.

Eugenics is the idea that you can make the human race better through selective breeding of people. Positive eugenicists think that we should encourage people with the right genes to breed and have lots of kids. Negative eugenicists think we need to stop people with bad genes from breeding, ensuring that they have no children.


Every now and then we read in the news about a doctor who killed patients that the doctor felt were suffering. Sometimes it's a doctor, sometimes it's a nurse. They mean well, but they don't even ask the patients if this is what they want. They just kill them.  

You should read the article on the link below. A book has been written about this. It's a very troubling situation.

Aug 25, 2009 - The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. ... jury declined to indict her on second-degree murder charges, the case faded from view. ..... She said that Pou did not use the word “euthanize..."


Many Americans believe we should do what is done in some other countries. That is, we should allow people who are suffering terrible pain at the end of their lives to choose suicide. The difference from this and the other positions is that it is the patient who was doing the suffering who was making the decision. The doctor is just complying with the request.


Families often have to make this terrible decision for the patient who is no longer able to decide, and may not even be conscious. My mother had to make this decision for my father. They had to keep him heavily drugged because he kept pulling the breathing apparatus out of his throat. Obviously, he did not want it there. Furthermore, every breath the machine forced down his lungs damaged his lungs more. The doctor said eventually his lungs would be so destroyed that even the machine would not keep him alive.

So she did what the doctor suggested, and we all gathered around and  held him while he died. He did not show any sign of struggle or suffering --which he had shown with that tube down his throat.  I believe mother made the right decision. I think it's what dad would've wanted. In any event, it stopped the suffering of a prolonged death being kept alive by a machine.

I think you know my position on the subject of euthanasia. Now I'll look up an article for you.

Euthanasia was the right decision for my wife - Washington Post › Collections

Oct 22, 2012 - I was living in comfortable retirement with my wife, Mathilde, when, at the age of 71, she received a diagnosis of Waldenstrom's disease.

Here's another version of the same story I told. Different people, different disease, but the same conclusion.  You can agree or disagree with the article, either way it'll work for you. Neither the article nor I spoke about the objections to euthanasia. Basically, they come down to moral issues . Is it ever right to take a human life? In my dad's case there was no need for any action to be taken except to turn off the machine it was artificially keeping him alive. But I believe that in extreme cases yes, it is acceptable to euthanize someone if that is their desire, or if that is the decision of their family under extreme circumstances.

My wishes on the subject are well-known to all of you. I had this talk with you some years ago when my vertigo reached the worst levels that I have ever experienced. It's an uncomfortable subject but I think it needs to be dealt with, once again. When I am having really terrible vertigo attacks it is like being tortured. The suffering is extreme.  

I know you believe it, I know some other members of the family do, but I also know at least a few who doubt it. But they are wrong. At those times, as terrified as I have been of death since I was six years old, death is preferable to the suffering.

I only lived through those times for four reasons.

 One, I do still fear death is the greatest terror I can imagine. This keeps me from rushing into ending the suffering, but it only slows me down.

Two, I am so incapacitated I'm afraid I would make a mess of killing myself and make my suffering even worse. During the French Revolution Robespierre got the idea that the way to support the revolution was to create mass terror through mass murder. He's the one, if any one person is responsible, for the rivers of blood running through French streets from the guillotine. But people got sick of all the blood and decided to chop his head off.  In terror, he tried to kill himself. Pun intended.

Chopping heads off was great for other people, just not for him. He tried to shoot himself and messed it up. He shattered his jaw and spent the night in horrific agony until they finally guillotined him the next day. I don't want that to happen to me.

Three, as horrible as it is I keep telling myself it will pass. So far it has. Maybe one day it won't.  Then no one needs to ask. If that happens I don't want to die, but it's better than suffering like that. You all know it and I expect you all to carry it through if it ever becomes necessary. I'm sorry. But that's just the way it is. Be comforted by knowing it is not your decision. It is mine. All you're doing is telling the doctor what I have told you to tell. Please don't get upset, I don't think I will ever be stuck permanently in that condition.

Four, the main reason I've never taken my life, as tempting as it has been at times, as necessary as it has seemed to me at times, is that I live for my family. Good food, good books, communion with God, all the joys of life, aren't worth that suffering. That is, except for my family.  Every one of you, well almost everyone of you, including my grandchildren can say that you have saved my life on numerous occasions. Because you have.

It is not an exaggeration, but a statement of simple fact. There were times I would've killed myself to put an end to the suffering, but I did not do so because I knew it would inflict suffering on you to have me do that to myself and because I wanted to get through it so that I could live with all of you another day.

The best teacher I ever had, Dr. Danielson out at the VVC, the best school I've ever attended, taught me philosophy. I remember a discussion in which he talked about a philosopher who said no one is truly alive who has not sat up alone at night with a gun in front of him and decided whether to kill himself or to continue to live.

 I agreed with that position. On the other hand, I never actually did that. And I had no idea that one day I would actually consider suicide as a necessary option compared with continuing with the life I was living at that moment.  

I know this talk is disturbing to you, and to any of my children who may read this, but it is reality and it must be faced.  Again, take comfort in the fact that all of you are the reason that I kept living. That is actually a conscious decision I have made on numerous occasions. I hope I never have to face the choice again, but my health has been slipping back again lately, as you know.

All of you were the only things worth living for on more than one occasion. That should make you happy.

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