The Fountain of Euthanasia

I started to write a long post about my mother and how she was taken down, but let me just write a short one about myself instead.

I don’t plan to die like an animal.  When it’s my time to go, I plan to go.

My whole family (my family of origin, that is my FOO, as Stefan Molyneux usefully calls it) has been square about this for literally as long as I can remember.  There is not a one among us who intends to do otherwise than GTFO vice become enfeebled, and a burden.  It’s the Protestant ethic without the taboo.

Both of my parents died at age 72 from cancer.  The clock is ticking.

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53 thoughts on “The Fountain of Euthanasia”

  1. We just updated our living wills. I said we could just stamp “put a pillow over my face” across the front page.

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  2. Contrary to what everybody is saying this morning, I think suicide takes a lot of courage.    I know I  don’t have it.    Some philosopher, you probably know who, wrote that humans think we have many desires but we really have only one: to live. “Skin for skin, All that a man hath he will give for his life.”

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  3. Blondie:
    We just updated our living wills. I said we could just stamp “put a pillow over my face” across the front page.

    In my opinion, from observing clients who come in determined to truncate their own lives, this “living will” (oxymoron alert!) thing was foisted on us by the health Insurance industry. We recently consulted an expert tax attorney for help with our estate plans, and he instead spent the whole time debating my husband about his conviction that he wants to go on living as long as humanly possible, he does not want the respirator turned off.  The guy just couldn’t believe that!

    YTF not? How did we get to the point where “ Thou shalt not kill”, or even just  “primum  non nocere”  became qualified by : “unless it becomes more financially advantageous to do so”…..is that enough now, to counter  the species’ Prime Directive: Live! .? 

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  4. Hyp, as a nurse I see people bring family members in for procedures and we all ask each other what are they going to do if they find something? I’m talking about people like HD refers to. Everybody has their own opinions and can do what they wish. I’m not saying you should be made to do something you don’t want, but for me, if I’m in this state at the end of my days, don’t go overboard with the lifesaving measures. To each his own.

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  5. My mom in particular just wanted to go.  She never wanted to be reduced to a lesser form, a burden to her family, or to lose her dignity.

    All of those things happened to a degree greater than she wanted.  Against her wishes, and counter to what we understood, New Mexico is NOT a right-to-die state, so her little “fountain of euthanasia” in the refrigerator amounted to nothing.

    As is the case with old people sometimes, they thought they had a handle on what needed to be done.  This was not the case.

    It was awful for her, which made it awful for us.  You know what?  I’m still not ready to talk about it.  Maybe once I move back to the States and don’t feel like such a Fn tourist.

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  6. Hypatia:

    Blondie:
    We just updated our living wills. I said we could just stamp “put a pillow over my face” across the front page.

    In my opinion, from observing clients who come in determined to truncate their own lives, this “living will” (oxymoron alert!) thing was foisted on us by the health Insurance industry. We recently consulted an expert tax attorney for help with our estate plans, and he instead spent the whole time debating my husband about his conviction that he wants to go on living as long as humanly possible, he does not want the respirator turned off.  The guy just couldn’t believe that!

    YTF not? How did we get to the point where “ Thou shalt not kill”, or even just  “primum  non nocere”  became qualified by : “unless it becomes more financially advantageous to do so”…..is that enough now, to counter  the species’ Prime Directive: Live! .? 

    Hyp, I agree that the tax attorney should shut the firm up about this.  But as far as individuals — I am a part of the crowd that has been JUST FINE with checking out in a dignified manner since before it was cool to talk about it.

    Anybody who insists that I linger and waste in pain and shame should also be willing to forego anesthetic at their next dental appointment.

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  7. No, HD and Blondie, “to each his own” indeed.  I admire anyone with the courage to terminate his or her own life.  And HD, yes, I saw a similar  agon  with my parents.  I’m not taking sides, except against the insurance industry, which I consider to be the root of all evil, in life as in death.

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  8. People say “Oh, but modern medicine can allieve the suffering, etc…” and I have seen it — it works to a point, which time should be used to make peace and set straight.  Because modern medicine, miraculous though it may be, can only do so much.  For some levels of pain, you are on your own.

    No thanks.

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  9. Haakon Dahl:
    People say “Oh, but modern medicine can allieve the suffering, etc…” and I have seen it — it works to a point, which time should be used to make peace and set straight.  Because modern medicine, miraculous though it may be, can only do so much.  For some levels of pain, you are on your own.

    No thanks.

    Alleviate?  I don’t think so.  Ever communicated with someone with a tube in their throat, someone conscious on a respirator?  Personally I have never otherwise experienced  such pathos.  My father (a doctor) thought he was  being restrained.  “Why the neck iron?” He managed to scratch out on the tablet we brought him…..o god HD you were so right, it doesn’t bear thinking about…I wish I hadn’t…

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  10. My step-father and I had a horrific argument with my Mom when she wanted to go outside, and kept trying to go, but we restrained her, because she would only want to go further and further, and we had out best opportunity to support and protect her right here at home.  She no longer had the strength to walk reliably, and no longer had the sense to accept this.  It was AWFUL.

    It’s not as though we could have supported her or something.  She didn’t want any help, and would accept none.  Even if we got her outside, the next thing we know, she would have been moving down the stairs to the driveway, like a crab clutching the rails, posts, steps above in some insane drive to go *somewhere* despite no longer possessing the strength to walk.  But she certainly still had the strength to make things difficult for those caring for her.  And recall, that she never wanted anybody to have to care for her in the first place.

    Which is where I am.  I humbly submit that it is no lack of humility to remain independent, and to die with dignity when that independence is no longer possible.

    So there I am holding my mother back from the front door, and she knows that her son is holding her back, and she’s still with it enough to know exactly what’s going on and why.  But *she disagrees*, and wants to live her life her way.  She no longer has the judgement to carry out her own lifelong desires.  All she knows is that she wants to go outside and that her family somehow, cruelly, is preventing her.  Yet if she had been six months younger watching this on a time travel channel, she would have said NO WAY — GET ME DONE.

    At the same time, every dose of medicine was an exercise in mistrust.  She thought that we were just trying to make her manageable.  Which was, of course true, except for the “just” part.  We wanted her PAIN to be manageable, and this was tricky.  For every pill or sublingual dose that she refused or somehow could not be brought to swallow, there was an increase in pain, sometimes pushing her back to a delirium of agony and nonsense paranoia.  Pain will do that to a person.

    How much force is appropriate when it’s your mother and the subject is pills?

    We thought this was all settled.  She goes beyond a certain point, and then we give her the Fountain of Euthanasia.  But our home hospice people got all alarmed, and thankfully, one of them let me know discreetly that the things I was saying would “soon” trigger an automatic response to take her into some other care.  New Mexico is not a right-to-die state, after all.

    What?

    Right — there was a law passed but it was OVERTURNED by a busybody Supreme Court.  Guess where my folks checked out in that process?

    And here I was, now on the radar of the health services and law industry.

    Every time my mother looked at me, I knew she wanted the pillow.  And I couldn’t do it.  I was always the one she could count on (except for being overseas an never returning except for visits), but now I had abandoned her — right to her face.  “Sorry Mom,” I might as well have said, “Can’t kill you.  You’ll just have to go the hard way — about which I know nothing.”

    It was awful.

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  11. Blondie:
    We just updated our living wills. I said we could just stamp “put a pillow over my face” across the front page.

    I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this comment.  Long may you wave!

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  12. Haakon Dahl:
    As is the case with old people sometimes, they thought they had a handle on what needed to be done.

    I totally agree with this because I witnessed it personally with my father before he died. There is a world class hospital (Moffitt Cancer Center) in Tampa that is a two hour drive from their home and campus housing for the spouse but they chose not to be “inconvenienced” and had treatment in Naples Community Hospital. I consulted with every one of my own doctors about this decision, including my derm who looked me right in the eye and said, “My mother is at Moffitt with advanced breast cancer and there was never a single moment I considered sending her anywhere else.” (Her advice was the most influential as a Harvard med school graduate and highly rated Mohs surgeon.)

    My father had a contained cancer on his hip, had a replacement (a very common procedure around here) and ultimately died from an infection and a non-interested surgeon.

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my parents beforehand to do the right thing and I’ll never know why they didn’t listen to sound advice. To add insult to injury, my mother has a concierge physician who didn’t help in the least; I sure could have used DocJay during this tumultuous period.

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  13. Hypatia:
    Contrary to what everybody is saying this morning, I think suicide takes a lot of courage.    I know I  don’t have it.    Some philosopher, you probably know who, wrote that humans think we have many desires but we really have only one: to live. “Skin for skin, All that a man hath he will give for his life.”

    Once you have a pretty firm death sentence (stage IV cancer, and so forth) I don’t view it as suicide.  At that point, it’s just a matter of scheduling.

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  14. EThompson:
    Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my parents beforehand to do the right thing and I’ll never know why they didn’t listen to sound advice.

    Do you mean that you don’t know why your father chose to live at home and do the outpatient thing as opposed to inpatient and motel living?  If so, consider this: your father may have ranked a longer life as worth some bother, but not worth relocating your mother, and going to a lot of fuss about himself.  You of course want more time with your father, so you already know what “sound advice” sounds like.  To you, it sounds like more time on this earth.  To you, that is.

    But just as in Marx, it is a fallacy to believe that time itself is the valuable thing.  It is the quality of that time which matters, not just the quantity.

    Having family members wipe my ass and fight me over medications is a negative valuation for me.

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  15. Haakon Dahl:
    Do you mean that you don’t know why your father chose to live at home and do the outpatient thing as opposed to inpatient and motel living?

    He never had outpatient care; he was so sick he was in the hospital for 8 months before he died. He never went home which is highly unusual for a hip replacement surgery. Did I not make that clear?

    My point is that he didn’t get the proper care in the first place and he was only in his early 80s. Who dies from a hip replacement surgery if the stage one cancer hasn’t metastasized? I firmly believe he didn’t need to die of this particular ailment if he’d checked in to the right place at stage one.

    All I can say is I’m happy to be 30 miles from Mayo Clinic Jax and I can assure you my husband wouldn’t check me into a sub-standard hospital if I were seriously ill.

    Understand there is a difference between hopeless and serious. Serious can be treated effectively.

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  16. EThompson:
    My point is that he didn’t get the proper care in the first place and he was only in his early 80s. Who dies from a hip replacement surgery if the stage one cancer hasn’t metastasized? I firmly believe he didn’t need to die of this particular ailment if he’d checked in to the right place at stage one.

    Here’s the thing.  There aren’t (but there should be) ratings, like those on Amazon, for surgeons, hospitals, and all forms of medical care.  As on Amazon, it would be up to you to discount the idiots, those with chips on their shoulders, or those with no actual experience, but in the end, with a large enough volume, signal would prevail over noise.  Absent such ratings, any consent to surgery is a crap-shoot: you have no idea whether when you’re on the table and the lights go out you’re in the care of a master healer or a butcher.

    In late 2014, I was advised that the only remedy for the deteriorating cartilage in my left knee and hip was replacement of the joints with titanium and ceramic prostheses.  After seeing the apparatus and investigating the barbaric procedures by which they were installed, I ended up opting for the alternative, “vivre avec”.  It’s not a fix, but it beats a botched outcome.

    My point is that with the way medical care works these days, you never know: it’s a roll of the dice every time, and I believe that it is entirely rational to choose, as I have done, not to roll the dice (particularly since I don’t know the odds) and choose to live with something thousands of generations dealt with before me.

    My belief is that nobody knows what call they will make when it comes to a life or death decision involving their own self.  You can ponder this in the abstract, but when it comes to that binary call, who knows how you will weigh the alternatives?  What I know for sure is that if anybody insisted that that it was moral or ordained from on high that a beloved pet or stock animal on the farm suffer a protracted and painful demise unto death as opposed to a swift and humane exit, I would not regard them kindly.  Now, with people, it’s more complicated: they (in most cases) have agency and their wishes should have absolute priority.  But when those wishes are to end the suffering quickly and with dignity, I believe they should be respected.

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  17. John Walker:
    But when those wishes are to end the suffering quickly and with dignity, I believe they should be respected.

    I don’t disagree about inevitable suffering but I know because I frequented a small group of top notch doctors that my father could have survived this thing and been on the golf course in six-eight months. I did my homework. I knew where he needed to be treated.

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  18. Life is a gift, and is not a gift to be taken lightly.   Express gratitude to your Creator.

    There are worse things than dying.   A loss of dignity is not one of the things that is worse than dying.   Suck it up.

    Let the people who love you try their best to keep you with them.   You have to let them act out their love, devotion and sense of duty.   It is for their sakes that it is important for you to try to live.

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  19. MJBubba:
    There are worse things than dying.

    Not before your time and I apologize for the vehemence, but my father went too soon unnecessarily. He had the money, the insurance and the HSAs to pay his bills.

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  20. I will try to clarify this subject with a post in the foreseeable future which describes euthanasia – what it is and what is isn’t; to distinguish the legal and moral issues. For now, I simply observe:

    Much is conflated in that regard in the comments. There are many combinations and permutations of fact and decision making which occur in the course of illnesses; an individual with a given illness – of varying likelihood of causing proximate death – does not come with a “use by” date. There are varying degrees of uncertainty both for the caregivers and surely the patient and loved ones.

    Firmly-held values in a given individual change with age and may change dramatically during the course of a long serious illness. Who we are as persons – in the deepest sense – while healthy is also subject to revision as illness progresses. This is particularly true with long, chronic illnesses, which are far more common now that many diseases – formerly quickly fatal – come to be managed over long periods of time.

    Euthanasia is not the same thing as foregoing life-sustaining treatment. Euthanasia is an affirmative act designed to cause death; it can be justified (whether legal or not) according to various motives, some of which – like knowingly and voluntarily shortening suffering – are surely morally permissible. Key elements of such a decision include: who is making it? the individual, loved ones when the patient is not competent or communicative in the absence of an advance directive? does the family or heirs have a financial interest in the immediacy or timing of death? is the state involved? insurance companies? Thus, is euthanasia in a particular case voluntary or involuntary? Many potential conflicts of interest can arise. Some examples: search “euthanasia and Netherlands.”

    Withdrawing life-sustaining treatment once begun is not euthanasia and morally equivalent to not staring it in the first place. This approach offers the greatest flexibility. A treatment such as putting a patient on a ventilator may be started. If and when it becomes apparent that the outcome will not improve, the ventilator can be withdrawn and it can be done mercifully.

    More to follow when I have time (still doing two part-time medical gigs at age 75; tentative diagnosis: workaholism).

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  21. I agree with most of the points made in your post. What we do have to solidify is the rule of law regarding euthanasia.

    I believe it should be allowed but it’s a slippery slope and we have positively useless congressmen. I do not want to give these people that kind of power, so what is the answer?

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