Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ending Life

As Tennesseans vote in this current statewide election, which includes voting on whether or not to preserve the right to privacy regarding women’s making their own decisions about reproductive health, we hear a new debate: whether or not people who are terminally ill have the right to make decisions about how they will die.

Voting No on Amendment 1 will help women, their families, and their doctors make careful decisions about abortion, whereas this newer debate concerns those who are suffering and dying horrific deaths.

Look at the cover of People magazine ( death-with-dignity-compassion-choices). Young Brittany Maynard has chosen the time of her death. Her brain tumor and her move to Oregon have given her this choice. Doctors described her potentially terrible dying process and because of Oregon’s law, Brittany has decided to die with her friends and family on November 1st, choosing not to suffer needlessly during the last few months she has left to live.

Parents’ choosing whether or not to end a pregnancy is fraught with a great mixture of feelings, including agony and confusion. The decision to abort is not made carelessly nor easily by most women and families who face this crisis. This is a heartrending time that greatly impacts the mother and her family.

Some terminally ill patients who have been told that their deaths will be full of pain and loss of capacities, and that medical procedures will not be able to reduce this torture, can choose in just a few states to ask their doctors for a prescription they will use to end their lives. This is death with dignity, death that is far less painful and horrible for the patient, their families and friends.

Both abortion and physician-assisted death are very difficult decisions not to be made lightly.

How many of us have suffered while watching our beloved parents or friends go through a horrible process of dying? In the past, my father and adolescent brother had to hold my grandfather down while he was in the throes of great pain while he died from cancer. More recently, I had to hold my father down after doctors gave him medications that sent him into violent shaking prior to his death. These events leave ongoing scars and distress for all of us.

Human beings take death very seriously, and we all suffer when making such final decisions about life. Vote No on 1 during this current election, and then let’s talk about Tennesseans’ creating better laws that allow for dignity in the death of those who are suffering tremendously and who are actively dying.

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