Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Friend’s death was dignified without assisted suicide

This opinion piece from the Calgary Herald's Susan Martinuk looks at the question of 'dignity' from practical experience.

'Dignity' in respect to dying is a widely abused term; largely misunderstood and misapplied. It is often used interchangeably (but wrongly) with thoughts of loss of autonomy:

Martinuk writes: 

Earlier this week, an elderly Toronto couple in their 80s did the unthinkable. Despite their age and infirmities, they deliberately clambered over a one-metre-high concrete barrier surrounding their balcony and fell 18 floors to their deaths. They left notes to say their goodbyes and it appears they may have had some sort of suicide pact.
Why? Most news stories mention that the wife suffered from chronic pain.
If that’s the true cause for this tragedy, then it’s time for her doctor to reassess the standard of care that he provided and sign up for some continuing medical education courses related to pain management. In an age of medical miracles and pharmaceuticals galore, it is morally and ethically wrong — and utterly inexcusable — that any pain should be so undertreated that it would lead to someone taking their own life.
The words in one note left at a small memorial forming outside the couple’s apartment building may provide further insight into what pressed the couple to take such drastic steps. It said, “I am not sad that you left this world, after all it was your choice. I’m sad because society let you down and could not help you die with dignity.”
That’s quite the backhanded compliment. Check out the synonyms for the word “dignity” and she is essentially saying that they left this world without having any merit, honour, status, character or distinction.
No matter what they shared or accomplished in their lives, these words imply that the couple’s choice and the manner of their deaths stripped it all away. In the end, their lives amounted to little more than a crumpled and undignified mess on the lawn. Death with dignity.
They are powerful words and, as demonstrated above, just as powerfully confused, abused and misused.
I have been quite fortunate in that, with one huge exception, I have lost relatively few friends or family members. To my recollection, I have attended just three funerals and borne witness to two individuals who died with dignity.
You can read the rest of the article at the Calgary herald website HERE:

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