Imagine being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Your faculties start failing you slowly; your eyesight, then you motor ability. You start forget names and people. You need help eating and walking. You are in constant pain and don’t see and ending near. You are desperate for relief, but you know the pain it would cause your family. This is what many people’s life is like who is suffering from one illness or another. For many the only way they believe they can get relief is if they die. They make the decision that they can’t go on with this pain any longer. They are on a downward slope and it will never incline. They consult their doctor and make the decision to end this pain and suffering forever.
Physician-assisted suicide is a topic that sparks much debate. Many feel it is inhumane and cruel, others feel like doing this will hinder their loved ones chances of entering their internal resting place, while the remaining support the idea because they don’t want their loved one to suffer at the hands of their selfish desire to keep them alive. I think about this topic a lot because two years ago my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I think about how I would feel if she told me she wanted to turn to physcian-assisted suicide. I know she would be in pain, but I want to call her every day and hug her on her birthday. However, I don’t want her to suffer. Even if she did want to do it, she couldn’t because it’s not legal in North Carolina.
Physcian-assisted suicide is only legal in five states; Oregon, Vermont, Washington, California, and Montana. Patients must also meet certain criteria to be a candidate for doctor assisted suicide. Individuals must have a terminal illness as well as a prognosis of six months or less to live. The specific method in each state varies, but mainly involves a prescription from a licensed physician approved by the state in which the patient is a resident.
Many people are in support of physcian-assisted suicide and believe that everyone has a right to decide how and when they die. There is a campaign called “Dignity in Dying,” that fights for the right for UK citizens to have the option of physician-assisted suicide. Due to the fact that many people are against physician-assisted suicide, legalization is hard. On the “Campaign for Dignity in Dying” website there are many stories from terminally ill people who can’t qualify for physician-assisted suicide. Hearing their stories makes me hurt for them. One man’s story really touched my heart. UK citizen Noel Conway tells his story of being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.
“I have the classic form, which is known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The life expectation for ALS is 2 to 5 years from the date of diagnosis. However, I know that my symptoms began at least two years before this date when I started losing weight, felt a pain in my lower back and increasingly began to have difficulty walking.”
The news got harder for Noel when he learned from his doctor that he only had six months to live.
“The consultant had to been frank and given me all the information that was then known about MND. He said I had between six and 18 months to live though it could be longer or shorter.” Noel started considering physician-assisted suicide after learning this but was met with many obstacles.
“I’m aware of the ferocious opposition to any change in the law by disability groups, though not necessarily by disabled people themselves.”
“Seeking to end one’s life when one is terminally ill with six months or less to live is quite obviously not the same as saying disabled people have less value than others. I do not accept the view that if there were a change in the law this would create overwhelming pressure on elderly people to agree to an assisted death to avoid being a burden on society.”
“The changes we are proposing require an individual to proactively request help with end of life and judicial oversight to confirm there is no undue external pressure on him or her. To argue, as some have, that the moral climate will have been so tipped to place indirect pressure on people is spurious and hypothetical and not borne out by practice in those countries where there is such a law.”
Many people like Noel have to struggle and fight for their right to decide to stop suffering. wBy allowing this option to people, we are giving them the best gift we can give them, freedom.