On dying

I’ve been thinking about dying lately. No, I’m not terminally ill or anything, but still… with reports about California’s assisted suicide law having gone in to effect, my mind has gone into overdrive.

A few days ago, the Daily Mail ran this story about a woman who, at 41, became one of the first Californians to take advantage of the state’s new doctor-assisted suicide law. I’m not sure if “take advantage” is the correct term for this. As someone who loves life, it’s hard for me to imagine making the choice that Betsy Davis did.

In early July, Betsy Davis emailed her closest friends and relatives to invite them to a two-day party, telling them: ‘These circumstances are unlike any party you have attended before, requiring emotional stamina, centeredness and openness.’

And just one rule: No crying in front of her.

The 41-year-old artist with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, held the gathering to say goodbye before becoming one of the first Californians to take a lethal dose of drugs under the state’s new doctor-assisted suicide law for the terminally ill.

als2After the party, Davis took a cocktail of drugs and peacefully slipped away with her loved ones and her doctor and massage therapist at her side.

To me, a healthy person reading this account, it’s unthinkable. I cannot imagine the kind of pain you have to be suffering all the time in order to want to end your life!  I wuss out and cry when my leg hurts for a few hours. The thought of suffering interminable torture 24/7 is horrifying!

But maybe that’s why Davis’ story resonates with me to such a degree. I cannot imagine the type of hell she’s been living in, unable to brush her teeth or even scratch an itch, and in constant pain, and I cannot imagine passing judgment on another person’s suffering, or how much of that anguish a person can tolerate. It boggles my mind that California had to pass a law to allow doctors to alleviate their patients’ suffering! I would have thought that this would be common sense.

That’s why I also don’t understand people who are so fucking selfish that they would pressure a loved one to prolong their agony, so that they could feel better about having them around!

Wesley J. Smith writes in a National Review Online article, “Would Davis have hesitated–delayed or changed her mind, perhaps–if enough of her friends and loved ones had said, ‘No, I won’t attend a party as prelude to your suicide, but I promise I will be with you until your natural end and do everything I can to make that a worthwhile time?‘”

How dare you! How dare you suggest that somehow Davis’ physical agony should take a backseat to “friends and loved ones'” desire to keep her around? How dare you advocate that people encourage their loved ones to continue suffering on their behalf? Unless you’re a wizard who can remove her pain, I doubt there’s anything you can do to make that “a worthwhile time,” you dick nozzle! Pressuring individuals living in perpetual pain, with no hope of survival, and only a long, painful road to death remaining when they have made a decision to go on their terms, only benefits those who will miss the afflicted individual once they are gone. How disgusting that some would want to pressure suffering people to stick around a few months, merely because they aren’t ready to let them go yet!

This woman went peacefully to sleep, watching the sunset, after celebrating her life with her friends and loved ones. She went on her own terms. She made the choice not to live in the hell that was her body any longer. She went with grace and dignity, not screaming in agony and unable to draw breath. Her doctor helped release her from her pain.

And jerks such as Smith have the unmitigated gall to claim every one of her friends who attended the party to say goodbye to someone they cared about and to support her in her choice to end her pain is held morally responsible for her death? What a repulsive attitude!

The illness is responsible for her death.

The illness robbed her of her body, trapping her in pain, and bringing untold suffering.

The illness is the evil here – not the people who supported their beloved friend in what must have been an agonizing decision!

And this Smith asshole has the balls to claim they should have pressured her to suffer longer?

What the fuck kind of people do that?

Don’t attend the party if you don’t feel comfortable, or if you’re too devastated at the loss of your friend. It’s understandable. Celebrate her life instead – in your own way, if you need to.

It’s your choice and your right, just as it is her choice and her right to decide when she’s had enough pain and suffering. Respect that.

But ferfuckssake, don’t be so callous as to try and force her to prolong her agony just because you’re too selfish to let her go!

36 responses

  1. I infer you’re still on your pain meds.

    “Dick nozzle” is far too mild for this piece of human excrement.

    Assisted suicide has to be explicitly legalized, because otherwise it’s considered murder. We have this fucked-up notion that our lives belong to someone or something else (god, society, etc.) and we can’t just do away with them ourselves.

    As I understand it (having heard from advocates, so there’s likely some bias) the vast majority of the time, when the suicide drug is prescribed, it’s not actually used…but the terminal patient has the comfort of knowing that if it does get unbearably bad…they can end it. (In other words, it’s oftentimes fear that it WILL get unbearably bad that is at issue, not that it’s already so.)

    The ONLY halfway intelligent argument I’ve ever heard in opposition to such an option is the fear that someone will guilt-trip or otherwise pressure a terminally ill person into ending it earlier than they’d actually want to, to collect the inheritance, end a recurring huge care cost, etc. But precautions can be written into such a law.

    In other news, there are doctors having “DNR” tattooed onto their chests to avoid ending up someday trapped in an intensive care ward when there’s really no hope. They see this stuff every day, and they know something many of us don’t.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Reblogged this on The Wandering Witchling and commented:
    I have a woman crush on Nicki.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Rob has a shotgun.

      If he does not have a shotgun, he has an AR-15

      If he doesn’t have an AR-15, he has something else I don’t want to be shot with.

      So I will NOT say I have a man crush on Nicki.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You can say it. Rob doesn’t care. He knows where I sleep every night. LOL!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. That’s the important part.

          Like

  3. Kevorkian was a bit before his time I guess.

    I find it ironic that some parts of society condemn people who would follow Davis’ route, while standing by someone who has decided that enough is enough and stopped chemo (whatever drug therapy they are on) and opted for “palliative care”. I was actually put out when my grandmother was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma in 99, her children wanted her to do the chemo. I was of the opinion that it was her life, if she did not want the chemo, then she shouldn’t have to go through it. She went through it – for all the good it did. She died of complications a month later.

    I could rant on for a while, but it would serve little purpose. Suffice to say that I believe if a person is that sick, hurting that bad, the decision should be between them, God, and their doctor.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. My grandmother got colon cancer in the early 1970s.
    She wound up moving in with us (i was 9 at the time) because mom’s an RN. She basically had to nurse her own mother into the grave. She had pain medication, the doctors made sure she knew what a fatal dose would be — the implication being that this was terminal and she could make her own decision. She didn’t pick that option, but I can’t imagine this was the only time this information was disclosed. And if you have terminal cancer, the coroner is going to put that down as cause of death, unless there’s a bullet hole somewhere.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I was diagnosed in 2005 (age 52) with ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory that mildly reduces mobility by restricting joint flexion, and which causes constant pain. There is no cure, and the only treatment is pain meds. I was disturbed when I found out it wasn’t going to kill me sooner or later, just torture me until eventually I died of other causes.
    Yup, I considered suicide. I could tell you the LD-50 of every medication they gave me.
    But, in my case, other people DID have a vote, because I have children. I guess I could expound on that, but I won’t, because that’s likely gonna be my own blog.

    Just from the bit you quoted, I don’t get ‘dick nozzle;’ it seems to me he’s simply offering an alternative. BUT: I didn’t read his column.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Pat, do read it. It’s disgustingly judgmental and accusatory to every person who supported a loved one in what must have been an agonizing decision. It was nasty.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Nikki:

    This is a copy and paste of my post on August 12, 2016 to the Daily Mail story you, as so any others do, found so acceptable, so moving, so reasonable. In your healthy state your opinion is seemingly understandable, however, it is entirely misguided to believe one in such distress is to be allowed to coerce others into helping self-murder.

    You may choose to continue to hold your opinion; the vehemence of your words tells me this is quite likely. Should _my_ words, _my own experience_ with just such disabling consition fail to enlighten you, I do hope others will read this and understand that self-murder is possible by anyone no matter the physical inabilities, and to ask, seek aporoval, encourage participation in the act by anyone, be it physician or worse, loved one, is as selfish as it gets. You are asking them to be an accomplice to your murder — there is no pussyfooting, no euphemism such as assisted suicide or euthanasia — it is premeditated murder, plain and simple.

    Here are my words from my Facebook post of 12 Aug:

    Thirty years ago this date, I underwent brain surgery. Before the operation the anesthesiologist had me sign a consent form after giving me the mandatory “Though rare, there is always the chance you may not wake up” disclosure chat. They always warn you that you might not survive surgery; they never tell you that you can survive surgery yet lose your life. That is what happened to me.

    After thirty years and more than three dozen operations to my brain, my brain stem, and my spinal cord, I now find myself bed bound, invalid and dependent upon others for my very survival the rest of the years I have left to me. Though not pelagic, three of my limbs are all but useless, my right arm the one thing I have left to me no matter yet one more careless medical staffer who didn’t listen nor care pulled it incorrectly, leaving the shoulder bone slipping out and grinding away the joint — at some point here, I will be the body in the bed, nothing but my active brain and imagination functioning properly.

    What I would not give to be able to transfer to any kind of chair or gurney that could get me out to a porch without extreme discomfort, a party, a beautiful hill for that “one last sunset.” I will not lay on you all that I have lost in my body’s losing ability, almost literally inch by inch since August 12, 1986, all the unendurable I have endured.

    How dare she … how dare these ‘friends’ accept and participate in her self-murder. How dare anyone attempt to write this selfishness as beautiful, her “one last means of control.” She has every bit of the control necessary without having others be accomplice — want to die? Stop drinking water, I guarantee you will succumb. No, you just want it easy and you require others, worse, loved ones, to accept your cowardice.

    There _because of_ the grace of God am I — there is no way I go to Him and tell Him I threw away His gift to me. Today of all days I needed to read this in order to share my thoughts on this subject.

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    1. Dear Maureen –

      First of all, I’m so sorry for your pain! I cannot imagine what you’re going through.

      That said, you have a choice. You took that choice. How can you, in good conscience, impose that choice on others? How dare you?

      Yes, Betsy Davis could have starved herself or denied herself water. YOU WOULD WISH THAT ON HER, knowing how agonizing that death would be, on top of her existing pain?

      How dare you?

      How dare you project your choices on others and pass judgment on how they choose to leave this earth? I would think that someone who is in constant pain would at the very least understand the desire for some control and the wish to leave this earth on your terms, as you have chosen.

      She didn’t force her friends to support her. She invited them. Each one of them had a choice to come say goodbye or not. They chose to do so. You would begrudge them this?

      And please, don’t sit there and shove your religion in my face! It is not a gift to be in constant pain is suffering. It is not a gift to waste away, your body slowly failing you. It is a gift to be able to make the choice to finally release yourself from that suffering peacefully without added agony.

      You have that choice. So did every last person at that party. So did Ms. Davis. Don’t begrudge that choice to others in pain, merely because you don’t agree with their choice. That’s abhorrent.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. “Yes, Betsy Davis could have starved herself or denied herself water.”

        It just occurred to me…how is this ethically any different whatsoever from taking a drug to kill oneself? It isn’t. If one is acceptable, then the other is too, if not, then the other is not.

        Perhaps Maureen values suffering, and it’s only OK to “self murder” if suffering is involved. But if that’s what it is, quite frankly, she can take her desire to require people to suffer, and shove it.

        The other alternative is perhaps she just isn’t being very consistent. Wouldn’t be the first time an irrational tyrant wannabe was like that.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. “Self Murder” is a ridiculous term. Murder is necessarily something you do to someone else. Your whole argument falls apart. Her friends wouldn’t have prevented her “self-murder” by intervening, or not attending; they would rather have asserted their ownership of her. Good on them that they did not, you could maybe learn something from this.

      You might have chosen to keep going in spite of what happened to you, but you have NO RIGHT to force others to do so (regardless of the choice you made), and no leg to stand on condemning them for their choice. Because that’s what it is: their choice. One would think someone in your situation would understand this. But I’ve learned long ago the world is full of people who love to dictate to others.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jeeze, Steve – get out of my brain.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Great minds, Nicki. Great minds.

          I hesitated…for about two seconds…to condemn this tyrantita on account of what she went through. Then I realized there is NEVER an excuse for trying to control others.

          Liked by 3 people

  7. Two things:
    1. I read the Wesley Smith article, and it appears he condensed ALL compassion into the brief bit you quoted; the rest of the article is a political rant on how They are out to get us. So, I exclude any further consideration of his views.
    2. I believe the receiver can decide whether the circumstance is a gift or a curse, and nobody else can decide that for them. I mentioned my chronic pain condition. The ‘gift’ aspect is NOT that I don’t have to work and am given narcotics; this ain’t 1971. Frequently, I don’t KNOW what the gift aspect is; on the other hand, when my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, tells me “Thanks you for doing that. I know you are hurting,” then, at that point, the gift is clear.
    I’ve also got one other gift condition, which I KNOW is a gift, but which others see as a curse. And I’ve got one pending that I don’t have to deal with, yet.
    But in EVERY case, the one who decides if it’s a gift is ME. Anybody else who tells me “what a gift” is likely to get punches in the beezer. Not even Vanessa gets to make that decision for me; she has her own choices to make with respect to my, errrmm, medical opportunities. And I don’t get to tell her that these conditions are gifts; with respect to how they impact her, it’s her own choice. All I can do, and what I MUST do, is not whine and make others miserable because MY genetic dice rolled this way. I’m 63, I’m having a good run, and I have NOTHING to complain about. (But if Wesley Smith or anyone else tells me I must do that, my response is ‘who appointed you my spiritual advisor?’ And then I hang a mouse on them.)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Pat, exactly right. Each one of us has a choice, and those choices are our own. Beautifully said.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Well….I’m going to very gently, politely, and compassionately disagree with about half of your post, but that being said, it doesn’t mean that I would force MY position on the lady that decided to end her life. And here is why:

    That decision is between her (in the form of her soul, naturally) and her Creator.

    No….not God. Not Allah. Not Yahweh, nor Adonai. As a Deist (I am, after all, a FreeMason), I can understand, regardless of how poorly the fellow phrased it and ranted, his feeling that to take ones own life is the ultimate “Fuck You” to your Creator. Call it God, Adonai, Allah, whatever.

    And to some (myself included) I simply couldn’t attend an event where I see the most precious of gifts….life itself…being purposefully ended by ones own hand.

    You and I obviously disagree on that point, and thats fine. Disagreement is a good thing. As I said, I wouldn’t dare to deny the person the right to end their suffering, and I would implore them to not do it. And yes, I would have to politely and compassionately refuse to attend such a “party”, as it goes against my deep respect and love for my Creator, and for the miracle of life itself.

    So while I wouldn’t partake, I can assure you its not because I would want to “force” the person to endure more pain and suffering. As I said, their decision is between them and the higher power they believe in. I would simply hope that the person looking to end their life would also respect MY position that I couldn’t partake in something that I felt was the ultimate affront to whatever higher power/intelligence it was that breathed life into a primordial ooze, and created strands of self-replicating DNA that evolved into….us.

    And I would expect that, just as I step back and not interfere with them exercising their own Free Will, they would understand and respect MY position of not attending.

    Lastly…

    Yes, my position comes from my deep personal belief that everything around us, the whole Universe, wasn’t just some freak accident of all matter being in a hot dense glob floating in the center of nothing, where one stray particle happened by and struck it just so, making that singularity unstable, at which point a blob of condensed Everything floating in nothing suddenly exploded and de-stabilized, resulting in Everything magically popping into existence. That theory, in my own humble opinion, holds about as much water as the stories of Adam and Eve, a mythical flood with a boat that carried two of everything on Earth, and so forth.

    So yeah, I agree with some of what you said, and I disagree with some. My hope is that I conveyed it with thoughtfullness and respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dennis, you haven’t disagreed with me at all. Notice my problem is with the use of pressure and force, not worth the personal decision of those who believe in a creator or those who don’t. Re-read what I wrote. There’s no disagreement there.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Dennis seems to be the only one to comprehend my simply stated, plain English wording. I impose no force, I insist on no control of others, quite the contrary. I am stating that no one has any right, reason, nor excuse to require others to participate in one terminating his life before nature concludes its course.

      You foolish continue to pat yourselves on the back for your so-called compassiion and “great minds” while humanity continues to lose its very soul. I dare because I may due to exerience, not the lofty notion of no understanding whatsoever but imagining you to be a better person because you think so highly of yourselves. Congratulationns, you have your reward here on Earth.

      Like

      1. No one required ANYTHING, Maureen. Maybe you missed that part of the equation. There was an invitation. People were free to accept, or as Dennis stated, politely and compassionately decline – without condemning people in pain for their choice, which they should be able to freely make. Do you honestly think so highly of yourself that you have proclaimed yourself judge and jury on people’s souls? On their anguish? That’s abhorrent to the very nature of compassion.

        Like

      2. Maureen, you are, I believe, on shaky ground when you describe the circumstances as ‘terminating one’s life before nature takes it’s course.’ Medical interventions PREVENT nature from taking it’s course, all the time; it’s what they are designed to do.
        I’m trying to catch what your core value is, here.

        Like

    3. [ I can understand, regardless of how poorly the fellow phrased it and ranted, his feeling that to take ones own life is the ultimate “Fuck You” to your Creator.]
      And I’m going to disagree with that.
      Two possibilities: First that the Creator purposefully inflicted the disease on that person as some kind of test/ inspiration to others/ whatever, and He/She requires the person to choose to continue suffering. (And, no, I don’t believe He does that.) In that case, “Fuck You” seems a fair response.
      Second, that the Creator’s creation includes the possibility of getting the disease, and also includes the possibility of choosing to end the suffering by ending the life. In which case, why presume that the Creator will be insulted/pissed off by the sufferer making that choice?
      After all, there is a long and honorable tradition of choosing to sacrifice one’s life for the good of the community, which could certainly be applied to a person who requires constant medical care. (Again, where the choice belongs to the individual, not the community.)

      Like

      1. YES!!! Thank you!

        Like

  9. Had a close family friend self-terminate for similar reasons here in Utah. He had a disease for which the (increasing) pain could only be managed by amounts of oxycodone that left him a zombie (and were difficult to obtain legally in the quantities needed), or by illegal use of a plant considered Verboten by the Fascist State of Utah and the Federal government.

    The State and Federal Governments were, in effect, torturing our friend, without even the benefit of condemning him in a court, for the crime of becoming terminally ill.

    The difference? He couldn’t be prescribed proper medication to do so painlessly and peacefully. He wasn’t allowed to be surrounded by loving friends and supporters. (No living relatives.)

    For this crime alone, I would happily put the entire State and Federal governments to the sword, the cross and the flame.

    Like

  10. The book “How Doctors Die” compares the treatments physicians choose for themselves versus what their patients receive near the end of life. Doctors generally are much less aggressive at things like palliative chemotherapy or surgery. Because they know.

    Criminalizing suicide or physician assisted suicide is stupid and evil. Who’s life is it anyway? In contentious issues like suicide and abortion, the regulatory fallback position should be “mind your own damn business”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly. But tell that to the arrogant theocrats who believe their religious beliefs should be the rule of law.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. The risk in legalizing assisted suicide is not in giving the individual the choice, but in giving the state authority over it. Because inevitably, that leads to the state choosing for its own convenience. Look at Britain’s “Liverpool Plan” or Holland, where the Doctors can decide to end a patient’s life now even if the patient wants to live, or Obamacare’s IPAB board. The dangerous end of this trend is the homicidal rantings of a Peter Singer or Ezekiel Emanuel.

    Like

    1. That’s quite simple to fix. Simply have the legislation repealing the prohibition on choice include that the government may never prescribe this for any person; it must be self-chosen.

      Like

  12. As always, I come to this after many have already weighed in with their opinions. I have often thought about this subject myself, as I am a Christian, and struggle with the concept of death and suicide. I do not think that God will turn His back on me for anything I do on earth, as I believe that the penalty for ALL of my sin has been paid already. So for me, it is simply an issue of what would be the most pleasing to God, and the best thing for myself and my loved ones.
    I have been a student of many things my entire life, and one of the things that I have followed is medical science, if we can really call it science. When we take a close look at the advances made in some areas of cancer treatment, we find that the long term survival rates have actually not gained much over the last thirty years or so, even with the huge amounts of money and research thrown at them. For diseases like ALS, the outcome is similar, with the decline always coming and patients ultimately being forced to make the decision whether to have a tracheotomy and the difficulty that it brings.
    Perhaps it is because I am getting older, I am now 56, but I increasingly find myself unwilling to put myself through some of the more difficult and degrading types of treatments for certain diseases, in the hopes of perhaps gaining a few months or a year of lower quality life. So if I were to be diagnosed with a very serious, possibly terminal disease, with limited promises for a positive outcome after treatment, I would not automatically choose to go through the treatment in the hopes of a cure. That would of course leave me with the knowledge that my death would come at a closer time in the future than expected, but also with the knowledge that I alone had been the one to make the decision as to what it was that would take my life. I would rather die of cancer than because my lungs were no longer able to function because they were worn out from chemotherapy.
    How is it really much further of a step to say that I would rather die of too much morphine, which caused me to sleep, and then to simply stop breathing, instead of from the pain and suffering of a cancer which destroyed my internal organs, or my brain, and my ability to speak, to hear, or to even think?
    Now, why should the government, or anyone else, for that matter, think that they have the wisdom or the understanding of me or anyone else’s psyche, heart, soul, spiritual condition, emotional strength, or any other of an infinite number of things that would go into the very personal decision involved in an end of life choice? You would think that by now, after all this time, the government at least would have learned to stay out of peoples bedrooms and their living rooms. If I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then I also have the right to end any of those three, by my choice. If someone tries to make those choices for me, or take them away, then they have lost all rights to have an input on my life, for they clearly don’t have my best interests at heart, but their own.

    Like

  13. I haven’t commented on a blog before this. What you have written about has touched me deeply. I have cancer and I’m in constant horrible pain. It’s difficult to get others to understand.I watched my mom go through this too. By the time she passed, it was a relief for her and us kids. I undestand other people not wanting us to die, but to me if that person is ready to go don’t be selfish. Let them go. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrew, there are no words. Thank you for giving your insight.

      Like

  14. Thought you should know, since you were so kind to my friend, Maureen Mullins, that she passed away yesterday. She suffered bravely for many years and spoke to you in more knowledge than you will ever have about courage.

    She, like St. John Paul II, demonstrated that living is precious, and something not to end before God’s will.

    Like

    1. I’m very sorry for your loss. Disagreeing with someone is not a crime, and I don’t feel guilty about it. I’m glad she had that choice.

      Like

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