This I Believe

Leslie - Hayden, Idaho
Entered on February 26, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: death
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“Dying with Dignity”

I believe in the right to die. I believe that a terminally ill person of sound mind should have the right to take his/her own life while he or she still has the strength to make that choice and carry it out. I do not use the term suicide because I believe that the term should be “dying with dignity.”

My father died on April 29, 2001, he was 65 years old. He was in the final stages of a 20-year battle with emphysema when he decided to take matters into his own hands. He went out with great difficulty and bought a charcoal grill and charcoals. He assembled the grill and put it in his bedroom. Then he sealed the windows, doors, and vents and lit the charcoal and lay down on his bed. I found him the next evening. This was the first time in my life I felt panic and relief simultaneously.

Prior to his death, he was hospitalized with a severe case of bronchitis and almost died there, and then he was sent to a nursing home for a few days. My father was an independent man, hated being so weak, and he absolutely despised the nursing home. He vowed to never return to that place. He had panic attacks when he felt he couldn’t get his breath and he had to use oxygen all the time, it barely helped. He couldn’t do anything without getting short of breath and having to rest. It was so painful for me to see how much he suffered on a daily basis. I wanted nothing more than to see his suffering end.

The coroner said my father died of carbon monoxide poisoning, around 10:00 a.m. This meant he watched the sunrise one last time. That was his favorite thing to do, and I wish I had been able to share that moment with him. It was painful for me when he died. But I now know why he ended his life. He did not want to die in a nursing home without his dignity. My father deserved to have the choice of a legal and dignified death with me holding his hand watching that last sunrise together. This I believe.