TO THE EDITOR,
So, here we are in the depths of February. Its cold, its dark and the weather is criminal. Wise people will, like wise dogs, remain inside, feet up and close to the fire with a glass of something tasty in hand. While it is obviously something to be endured, it is also a time which provides an opportunity to contemplate, to slowly, deeply, consider and evaluate certain things. But what shall we consider? I’ll go first.
Why should we not have the right to decide for ourselves when we die? I must qualify that, of course. I am not speaking here of the entire citizenry, of all persons and of all ages (that’s for another time and perhaps another winter), but rather of those of us who have reached an age when the end is no longer a distant, vaguely acknowledged possibility but a clearly perceived, clearly approaching certainty.
Death comes for us all. There are no exceptions. Regardless of how cleanly and healthily (or otherwise) you have lived your life, regardless of how morally upright and virtuously (or otherwise) you have behaved during your lifetime, you are going to die. We know this. What we don’t know, and this is the central point of this letter, is when. Or under what circumstances. What will kill me? We know absolutely that something will. Emphysema, heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, heart attack, a dozen different kinds of cancer, the list is very long. But one of them is going to get you and I just as it will, in time, get all of us. Death is coming and neither you nor I are going to somehow ”get better”.
Would it not be best, then, to decide for ourselves when that when was, and under what circumstances? Would it not be better, then, to have the option of choosing to have a lovely meal, perhaps with some family or friends (if you have any left), tell a few jokes, laugh at some old stories and memories, climb into bed and drift away and not wake up? To choose to end your life on a peaceful, comfortable up note?
Some would say no. Indeed, some would say absolutely no, and I am good with that. My dad choose that way. He was adamant that every means, bar none, must be utilized to keep him alive as long as possible. I do know that it was not that he feared death. He was the survivor of many bloody battles, including D Day, and, as far as I know, was afraid of nothing whatsoever. His was a philosophical or moral position. He somehow felt it was his duty to stay alive and I utterly respect that. But his is not the only position available, though we tend to act as though it is.
Getting on myself, I have two elderly acquaintances who have privately said (and carefully never within earshot of their caregivers or, especially, family members) that if they had it in their power to just go to sleep and not wake up, they would jump at the chance. And I suspect there are many more like them.
Not in pain, particularly. Not depressed. Simply tired and recognizing that what remains of their life means being warehoused in a nursing home and waiting, day after day, for the inevitable something to strike them down. They, and I believe a considerable number of others like them, would choose instead to end their days quietly, painlessly, with dignity and on their own terms if that option was available to them which, at present, it is not.
But why not? Obviously some checks and balances would have to be built into such an option. Those whose mental processes were addled by Alzheimer’s, dementia or an addiction of some sort might be excluded. Care would also have to be given that taking the option to end one’s life was not being forced upon someone by greedy family members, thirsty for an inheritance. (Just for the record, anyone hoping to financially benefit by my own death will be gravely disappointed when the lawyer reads my will. lol). But taking these checks and balances into account, the question remains: Why can we, when past a certain age, not decide when and under what circumstances our own life will end?
Something to consider on a cold night in February. Now, back to that fire. And where’s my glass?
RESPECTFULLY, COLIN AFFLECK, CHAMPLAIN TOWNSHIP