I have long been an advocate of individual choice in many areas: our choice of which God to pray to or to believe in no God, our choice to marry when and whom we love (even if the same sex or a different race), our choice to have as many or as few children as we choose (even if that means terminating unwanted pregnancies). Yes, there should be societal safeguards. We cannnot have these choices if they are harmful to others and I have no problem with limits on third term abortions. I certainly do not expect others to accept all of my beliefs and I strongly believe I should not be requred to follow theirs.
However the most important belief to me is the right for individuals to end their lives at a time of their choosing. I strongly believe that the pursuit of happiness listed in the Declaration of Independence includes my right to lead what I consider a quality of life that I enjoy and that is productive for society and meaningful to me and my family. And I want the choice to end that life when these criteria are no longer met.
When I see patients in hospitals or friends who are suffering intolerably, have no quality of life, no control over bodily functions, are making no contribution to society, and who want to die, why do we insist on keeping them alive against their wishes? These people use precious medical resources and are costing families much anguish and heavy financial burdens. For people who want to continue the fight against inevitable death, that is their choice and I do not quarrel with it. But they must allow me and others our choices as well.
How did I get involved in the right-to-die movement? My profession was medical equipment sales and I saw too many terminally ill patients being kept alive against their wishes. I joined The Hemlock Society which evolved into Compassion and Choices and more recently I also joined Final Exit Network.
These are organizations that believe we should have the right to die with dignity at a time of our choosing and they provide information and support to those wishing to hasten their death. Compassion and Choices is also active on the political front fighting for the passage of right-to-die laws in other states similar to the law in Oregon. Final Exit Network will serve terminal as well as non-terminal patients including those suffering from ALS (Lou Gehring’s disease), Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, congestive heart failure, emphysema, and other incurable diseases.
Why do we continue to treat our beloved pets better than ourselves? Why do we allow pain and suffering when there is no hope for improvement. We have a choice! I will grant you your choice and I hope and pray that you will grant me mine.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.