University at Buffalo
Is it Possible to Die with Dignity?
As people living in America, "The Land of the Free," you would think that we would have a choice on everything that happens in our lives. The life cycle of a human is birth, live life then die. No matter who that person is, no matter if he or she is rich, famous or if they have the brightest brain in the world, they all die in the end. In a vast amount of deaths is the deaths from terminally ill people who die earlier than others. Since they are basically on a time limit on how much longer they get to live others would say that they should live the rest of their lives the way they want, doing whatever they want and leaving the world on their own terms. However, once some people enter a hospital to get treated for their illness, they never get to leave. The idea of Death with Dignity has been a small but serious idea about whether or not people who are terminally ill should be able to choose whether or not they want to receive healthcare or live the rest of their lives out the way they want, free from drugs and confinement in a hospital ward.
In the essay "Death with Dignity" by a forum member with the username Kyra, the writer talks about the Death with Dignity movement and why this movement exists. Although you would think that people could be able to control the setting and the conditions where they would die if they had a terminal illness. However, in all but five states in the United States, terminally ill patients aren't allowed to stop their treatment process and live the rest of their lives the way they want to. Instead they have to stay in a hospital bed connected too various machines and have needles stuck in them for the rest of their lifetime. In the essay it says that Brittney Maynard, the person who brought Death with Dignity to attention, was also a terminally ill patient who had to "move to Oregon where Maynard could obtain Death with Dignity laws." This brings to light that even in the "land of the free" people have to go to great lengths just to die the way they want it they are terminally ill. The fact that Maynard had to move somewhere else just to live her life to the fullest potential, shows that there needs to be a change in the way some medical practitioners think just so they can do what is the best for their patient.
According to the "Death with Dignity" homepage, there are different ways that doctors "treat" different terminally ill patients. One of them is called "Terminal Sedation" which is the process of making the patient medically unconscious until the disease takes their life. This process can take a long time because the patient isn't supposed to die the moment that they find out about the disease. Even if they know about the disease and know they can't do anything about it, that doesn't mean that they should be giving up on the rest of their lives to a hospital bed. This obviously feels like it is a waste of the time that the patients have left in their lives since they can be doing something they actually want to do before they die instead of being connected to medical devices and suffering for a longer time than they should be.
Although some people might say that these doctors are helping all the patients by letting them live longer through medication and hospital care but in reality, even though these patients might be receiving the best care in the world, they could also be suffering on the inside. The physical pain from the effects of drugs and the mental pain of knowing they are dying but they can't do anything that they want to do in their last days can be even worse for the patient than dying. According to the article, "End the Suffering of Those Who are Terminally Ill" by Raymond Tallis, it states "we have the unequivocal evil of unbearable suffering, often prolonged by medical care, forced on a dying patient who wishes to die," which further explores the reasoning that some of the people with terminal illnesses might want to live the rest of their lives the way they want to in order to end their lives without regrets. With the hospital care that most states force on to patients, they can't really die on a high note.
Even though the essay "Death with Dignity" doesn't really have any quantitative data as to how many people are affected by this issue, it doesn't decrease the validity of the topic at all. Instead of providing cold hard facts about the laws and how many people are affected, the essay focuses on engaging the reader's emotions as a basis for the argument. Unless the reader has no sense of compassion for others, this essay is a surefire way to tug at the reader's heartstrings. The emotions that the essay triggers can thus can make the reader inquire about the Death with Dignity Laws themselves and see the history and who these particular laws affect.
On the surface, mandatory hospital care for terminally ill patients is a good idea in order for these people to live the longest life they can. But once someone thinks a bit deeper on the issue, they might realize that the patient doesn't want this treatment. Even if they don't want the treatment they can't do anything about it because of laws that bind them. From the essay "Death with Dignity" we can conclude that even though the policies that bind terminally ill patients to a hospital bed is intended to be for the patient's welfare but it might not have the effects of what it is supposed to do.