My father and I usually agree on most issues regarding politics and public policy. This was normally the case, except when it came to the right to die or physician assisted suicide. He has always felt strongly that, under the right circumstances, people faced with the decision of ending their own life should have the option to do it with dignity, and if that means assistance from a doctor than they should have that right.
In response to that I have given him several arguments, none of which include anything remotely religious or spiritual. If a person really wants to kill them self, they should have to do it themselves. If they cannot, maybe they don’t really want to die. The only people that might need help from other people to kill themselves, are people who have paralysis or are confined to a bed, in physical pain, have no access to drugs or guns and no friends or family to help them get those things… and have the will to die. How many people are there in the U.S. that fit all of these criteria? To these people I am truly sorry, but I do not feel that for the few number of people in that situation it worth changing the system to make it easier to kill people.
Once euthanasia becomes accepted in a society it is not long before it is abused. The threat of euthanasia being abused is not limited to poor people that are thought to no longer be contributors to society. This abuse would be a threat to everybody. A person’s money and wealth can serves as big motivation for someone else to want them euthanized. I personally do not want to live in society where it is thought, or even just rumored, that when you get old and are no longer useful, someone might trick you into signing something that gives them the right to euthanize you. When I reach the later part of my life, I might not be as sharp and aware of everything around me but hopefully I’ll be enjoying myself weather it appears that way to others or not.
One day at the kitchen table in my father’s house, he and I were discussing this topic. I laid out all my arguments, ending with the statement that it was my right to grow old in a society free from rumors of euthanasia abuse and the fear of someone tricking me into ending my life early. My father paused for a moment, and then said that he would change his opinion (do a complete 180 on the entree issue), if, I would, when the time came, at his request… euthanize him.
At that very moment this issue became real to me. It was no longer a philosophical, abstract, left or right political issue. It became a real issue that I might have to face sooner than I thought. I’d like to think of myself as an emotionally strong person able to make tough choices, if necessary, to do the right thing. I never told my father at the time, but at that very moment, sitting in his kitchen, my position on physician assisted suicide was completely reversed. I think I’m emotionally tough but when it comes to ending the life of a parent that raised me, I just don’t know if I can promise that I’ll be that tough. I now finally understand that physician assisted suicide is not just about the right to die with dignity but it’s also about the grief of the loved ones left behind.
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