Terri Schiavo threw up the omnipresent question of individual choice. Nothing could be more libertarian than choosing to die. Had Terri Schiavo left a living will expressing her desire not to be kept alive by artificial means, we never would have seen the circus that ensued. But physician-assisted suicide committed by terminally ill patients? That is an entirely different issue and most likely to face vociferous protests. However in the liberal state of Vermont, a group of citizens are lobbying hard to emulate Oregon’s seven-year-old law allowing doctors to prescribe suicide drugs for terminally ill patients who request them. Of course, the legislation is going nowhere even in a strongly blue state due to its controversial moorings especially regards concerns for abuse and its likely segway into euthanasia (legal in Dutch country). France incidentally also is contemplating an ‘end of life’ law that only allows the doctors to stop treatment and not administer euthanasia to dying patients.
Would I want to make a similar decision regarding a loved one? Of course not. But I would definitely want my loved ones to make the decision to take me off any artificial means to prolong my life (hope that qualifies as a living will; you all are witness). But will my loved ones let me die a little early before it really begins to hurt? In cases of terminal cancer or AIDS, the end is inevitable and the process of death is extremely gruesome as the patient slowly withers away and you can literally see life oozing out as days pass. Some say that the true test of love is when you let the person pass on and thus alleviate the pain. Even if you agree in principle, the decision has the element of timing i.e. when should you pull the plug? I just hope I never have to make that decision.
Tuesday’s episode of House, M.D. on Fox about a man having to authorize a procedure to save his child which would effectively kill his wife inspired this piece.