Death Is Part of Life

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Death is an inevitable part of life. It is a rite of passage that no one on this earth is exempt from or can escape. All deaths are difficult, although some are inordinately painful and drawn out. Those with a terminal illness or who have suffered an accident that leaves them hovering between life and death with very little quality of life often contemplate suicide as a means to stop the pain and suffering. With today’s modern technologies, people with terminal diseases often are able to live months, or even years, longer than they would have only decades earlier. Unfortunately, in the late stages of many diseases, pain can be intense if not unbearable. Some patients lose the ability to do things for themselves, to communicate, or even to think. For many, life at this stage no longer is worth living. For these unfortunate people, assisted suicide can provide a compassionate end to difficult lives. Assisted suicide allows people to avoid the unnecessary suffering that often accompanies the end of life. A patient that is no longer able to walk, move or speak coherently and is confined to a bed and has to rely on nurses to turn their body to prevent bedsores on their body could have slipped away peacefully and not been made to endure the weeks of pain and immobility the mark the end of their life. For others, assisted suicide is a compassionate end because it gives people who are unwilling to endure a slow and painful death a dignified alternative to drastic and violent acts such as suicide by jumping from a building, hanging or using a gun. Having the option to obtain a lethal prescription and would allow one to end their life peacefully and spare themselves the pain of a violent suicide and saved their family the memory of how they died. The nineteenth century philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that individuals are, ultimately, the best judges and guardians of their own interests. In a famous example, he said that if you see people about to cross a bridge you know to be unsafe, you may forcibly stop them in order to inform them that the bridge may collapse under them, but, if they decide to cross, for only they know the importance to them of crossing and only they know how to balance that against the possible loss of their own lives. Terminally ill people who are going to commit suicide do it without help all the time. The most common way is by hoarding a supply of barbiturates, deciding when and what time that they will practice their self deliverance and leaving behind a hand written note and a very clear do not resuscitate order so that if they are discovered before the suicide is complete medical personnel cannot legally attempt to resuscitate them. Having done their homework, most will take an antiemetic to prevent the vomiting up of the 60-80 barbiturates they will wash down quickly with an alcoholic beverage. Then they lie down and wait. What eventually happens is that they fall asleep, and then proceed to a deeper sleep and finally, as much as 8 hours later succumb to death. Other more barbaric forms of suicide that the desperately ill use to end their own life is the use of inert gases, such as helium that is fed into a plastic bag secured around the neck and then breathed in until the helium flushes the oxygen from the body. Complete lack of oxygen initiates brain death painlessly and within a few minutes. This approach to suicide is often used by patients who are unable to secure the needed supply of barbiturates to lay themselves down to permanent sleep. Basically, the bag fits over their head and is held in place while the bag fills with gas, the patient then exhales and pulls the bag down over their face where the elastic band secures around the neck and consciousness is lost in seconds and death happens in minutes. There is even a company in Canada that manufactures and sells the “Exit Bag” specifically designed for this purpose. Imagine the trauma involved when finding a loved one, dead with a...
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