Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Physician-Assisted Dying – Part Four – Final Thoughts

Click here to read the other posts in this series first.

I’ve come to accept that someday I will die. Probably. Unless… no, definitely. Someday I will definitely die.

It may be my choice, or it may not. If it is, I wonder how I’ll know for sure. I suppose when life is all drudgery and pain, and nothing can induce the occasional moment of joy or happiness, and there’s no hope of recovery, then it's time.  I’m a long way from there. May never get there.

In the first three parts of this series, I’ve laid out the case for legalizing physician-assisted dying. It won’t come without some risk. It won’t be perfect. But the benefits are so much greater than the drawbacks. It is an inherent human right to choose your time and method of death, and doctors should be authorized to assist when certain criteria have been met.

A handful of countries including Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Belgium have some form of physician-assisted dying. In the United States, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and California have Death with Dignity laws. In my state of Maine, a Death with Dignity bill passed the House in 2015 but failed in the Senate by one vote. Supporters are looking to reintroduce the bill in 2017.

I have a particular interest one aspect of these laws. If I ever get to the point where physician-assisted dying makes sense for me, I wouldn’t meet the criteria in some of these jurisdictions. Often, a doctor must assert that the patient’s expected lifespan is less than some amount, usually six months. People with slow, degenerative diseases might find life unbearable for many years, not just a few months. I don’t consider physician-assisted dying laws suitable if they have one of these lifespan restrictions in place.

My friend and fellow blogger, The Wheelchair Kamikaze, recently summarized the progressive MS situation in one of his posts:

“In my many conversations with other people with Progressive MS, I’ve found that most have formulated some sort of escape plan, some in only vague terms but others down to the last detail... most of the people who have related their thoughts and plans with me find them not self-defeating but rather self-empowering, bracing them to suck it up and fight on secure in the knowledge that if the fight becomes just too brutal and the climb too steep they’ve given themselves permission to call it a life. And in that there is no shame.”

Let’s take end-of-life planning out of the shadows. No one should have to starve themselves, ask their friends or relatives to assist them, suffer an unnecessarily excruciating death, or worst of all experience a botched suicide attempt. We need physician-assisted dying laws that are thoughtful and inclusive.

What can you do to help?

Ideally, everyone who reads this will become an activist in the cause. Here is a link to a list of supporting organizations.

I recommend this one:

For those who don’t want to become activists, the next best outcome is that readers at least quietly, privately empathize with an individual’s right to choose when and how to die.

If you remain opposed to the legalization of physician-assisted dying, I hope you now accept that those of us in favor of it come from a place of compassion, protection, and respect. If that's all these blog posts have accomplished, our time here has not been wasted.

Click here for Physician-Assisted Dying – Part Three – The Arguments in Favor of Legalization


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, George's mom. It means a lot coming from you.

  2. Years ago, I watched a movie titled "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" with Richard Dreyfuss. It really struck a cord with me.
    Every human being should have the right to die. Like you said ..... just come to a place of compassion, protection and respect. Nobody knows unless they've walked in their (or our) shoes.