Letter to the Editor: Euthanasia, facts and history

9 mins read

I completely agree with Mr. Blonder on the subject of end of life issues. Something needs to be done.

A few years ago I watched my father suffer to his death. Before this life changing experience I had never thought about the subject of human euthanasia. I truly feel that if more people witnessed the suffering of their loved ones, which I would never wish upon anyone, more people would speak out in favor of a simple life ending drug.

After my father’s death, I wrote the following research paper and would like to share it with you.

Tracy Bessey
Kingfield

Euthanasia is the practice of mercifully ending a person’s life in order to release them from an incurable disease, intolerable suffering, or undignified death. The word euthanasia is derived from the Greek Language meaning, “good death.” (Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia, 2007) Some feel this is an easy way out for family who can’t take care of a sick and dying family member, but isn’t it really a way of relieving their loved one from suffering? No living thing should suffer during their last days on this earth.

Sixty-nine percent of the people asked in a Gallup Poll in 2006, felt that doctors should be able to end a patient’s life if asked to do so by the patient or their family. Another poll taken by Harris Interactive in April of 2005, showed 70% of people asked said they felt if a dying patient asks a doctor to end their life the doctor should be allowed to do so (euthanasiaprocon.org). Even as far back as 1936, when the Gallup Organization ran one of their first Gallup Polls, about half of Americans were in favor of euthanasia (Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 2006).

Throughout history, various societies have accepted and performed euthanasia. The Spartans of ancient Greece actually inspected every newborn child for birth defects and if the child showed any signs of mental or physical problems, they were immediately euthanized. In 2000, the Netherlands legalized euthanasia and in 2002 Belgium followed the same path (infoplease.com).

In January, 2005, a man living in a nursing home in Maine suffering from a severe case of Parkinson’s disease along with several other health complications, began the process of dying. He lay bedridden for weeks, unable to eat or drink more than a teaspoon of food or water at any meal. He had to be fed by a nurse, rolled over every couple of hours to prevent bed sores, to have his mouth rubbed with citrus flavored cotton swabs to keep his saliva glands working, and was given morphine every few hours to lessen the pain.

As the days passed, his breathing got harder and his pain stronger. This continued on for over three weeks. As this was taking place, the nursing home would contact his family if there was any sign of the end of his life so that they could be with him. Several times in the middle of the night, calls would go out to his family that he might not survive the next hour, so they rushed to his bedside. The family sat by his side holding his hand and begging God to take their loved one from this world of pain and suffering. They knew he’d want to leave this world with some dignity and they wanted that for him. Days went by and it got harder and harder for the man to breathe with sometimes a minute or more in between each breath. He would struggle and gasp for air as his breathing began again. A deep rattling noise settled into his lungs, all while his family watched the poor man struggle. Finally, in the early morning about three weeks after he began his fight to die, the man left this earth with no dignity, no planned goodbyes, but finally, without pain.

Without life support, the elderly man suffered a very slow, painful and undignified end, a much more difficult death than with a quick high-dose shot of morphine or some other life ending drug.

In the United States, we are forced to stay alive. We have no rights to die when it comes to having our life ended even though we live in a land of freedom. Seventy-five percent of the people asked in 2005, said that they approved the act of euthanasia, but in the United States it’s not allowed (pcusa.org). We can leave a living will that explains that we do not want to be resuscitated, put on life support or cured, but we can’t be given any type of drug to put us out of our misery when the pain and suffering is just too great.

Oregon is the only state in the United States that has a right-to-die law. This law, part of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, legalized physician-assisted suicide in 1997. Doctors in Oregon can prescribe a lethal dose of medication, but the patient must be able to inject it. There are several requirements that must be met before this can happen. The patient must be at least 18 years old, a resident of Oregon, have a terminal illness with less than six months to live, and make the request for the prescription at least three times with at least 15 days between each request. One of those requests must be in writing. Then the doctor who prescribed the medication and a consulting physician must confirm the diagnosis and prognosis, determine if the patient can administer the drug, and require the patient to get counseling if they feel it necessary. The prescribing doctor must also discuss other options with the dying patient (publicagenda.org).

The end of life should not be dreaded by humans. The famous American poet, Walt Whitman once said, “Nothing can happen more beautiful than death.” (quotations.about.com)

The government should realize euthanasia is the final control that a person has of their life. Legislators should encourage our freedom of choice and human rights by passing legislation to make all forms of euthanasia legal.

We should be allowed to choose our own way of dying so that we leave this earth in a dignified way, not laying in hospital bed hooked up to machines that are trying to keep us alive, or being free of machines and tubes, but suffering a long, harsh undignified death. One high dose shot of morphine could end it all for a patient who’s ready to stop fighting death and leave this earth in their own way.

“Death may be the greatest of all human blessings,” – Athenian writer, Socrates (quotationspage.com

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