If we are going to have the discussion about doctor assisted dying, a conversation I fully support, we also have to have a chat about the doctor assisted prolonging of life -the other side of the same issue. The assisted dying conversation is only half the coin and though it is the controversial topic getting most of the attention we need to talk also about the unnecessary prolonging of life that seems to be acceptable to most people, the medical folks and their patients particularly.
You see at the core of this coin is the taboo topic of death and its companion discomfort coupled with our collective unwillingness to face them both head on and have those important yet difficult conversations. For me keeping a loved one alive with machines, and medication when the outcome is clear – avoiding the natural process of dying – is as offensive and amoral as some think doctor assisted dying is.
And yes, you can argue that miracles do happen, I witnessed one the other day on our Death Matters Live Radio Show. However, they are the rarity not the norm and we ought not hang our hat on these occasional ‘miracles’ to justify doctor assisted prolonging of life either. I have often seen the agony, suffering, and emotional pain families endure when a loved one on life support is kept alive at all costs with no chance of any quality of life as an outcome.
So let’s continue the process of honest, open conversations with all the medical information, a reality of expected outcomes, and frank discussions about BOTH sides of the issue. Despite our preferences, fears, and hopes let’s do the dying one a favor, a real ‘life’ favor at that. Get all the cards on the table about prolonging life or assisting death thereby empowering the one dying and their family to have these important yet difficult conversations in order that they make the best possible choices for the quality of life their loved one deserves.
Remember whether prolonging life or assisting death the medical and professional systems do have input, however the family and their loved one has final say. An informed choice is far superior to a fear-based reaction. In 2016 lets have more of these important conversations, they are in fact life affirming!