Conscious Aging: The Right to Die

My late husband Jerry was a big proponent of the right to die. He had a financial planning client with dual U.S./Netherlands citizenship, and when the client fell gravely ill with ALS, he and his family traveled to the Netherlands to end his life in their own time and own way. Jerry approved.

A 104 year old Australian man, David Goodall, recently ended his life in a Swiss clinic. Goodall was neither gravely ill nor in pain; he was simply old, too old in his view to live life as he wanted. He went out listening to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which seems to me to be a fitting culmination of a long and fruitful life.

I think the arguments for the right to die are clear. Here’s a well-written and reasoned counterpoint, raising questions that go beyond any one individual’s decision.

Who has the right to end a life — and why? And what does it mean to make assumptions that a life is, or is not, worth living? At what point do the sometimes competing ideas of “best interest,” individual freedom, and the inherent goodness of life overlap, and where do they contradict each other? And what does the increasing medicalization of death say about our attitude to life?”

I can actually imagine choosing to end my life if I had something like ALS. People with ALS eventually suffocate, because they lose the muscle strength to push air in and out of their lungs. I can’t think that believing in the sanctity of life requires anyone to endure that. My dear friend Brenda did die that way, and her partner shared with me that the last hours of life were terrifying. What they’d intended to be a peaceful at home death turned into a frantic race to the hospital, where Brenda got enough morphine to ease her into the inevitable end. Sounded perfectly awful for both of them.

Minga may choose, at some point, not to continue with dialysis — effectively choosing to die. I would completely support her making that choice, and wouldn’t think she had given up on life. I’d think she was making a statement that she’d already lived to the fullest the many parts of her life that were good.

How our life ends is hard to think and talk about under any circumstances, and probably we only do it when prompted by articles like those about David Goodall. I’m sure, in a couple of days, I’ll push this topic to the farthest reaches of my mind.

Glad to hear your thoughts before I do.

2 thoughts on “Conscious Aging: The Right to Die

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