It is time we had a serious discussion about death in our country. A discussion within our families, with our friends, strangers and churches. It is time to take the mystery out of death. I find it interesting that in all religious texts that I have read, the act of taking one’s own life, is perhaps, the greatest sin possible. Why is that? Many of us desire at least some amount control over our final days and how we wish to die. We lay great claims to our freedoms in this country – what greater freedom do we have then to end our time, here on earth, on our own terms?
Several groups like Death Café are now gaining popularity as a space to have that conversation. The Death with Dignity movement is strengthening and now making some legislative ground. As of 2016, four states have now created laws regarding physician assisted suicide. However, it is still tightly controlled by legislators, allopathic doctors, and many of the details needed for this to become a reality have yet to be worked out.
Where did this whole concept of “life at all costs” come from? Perhaps it is ultimately from the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. As for the cost of this policy, it comes in all types; financial, physical pain, mental degeneration, not to mention spiritual freedom. Today our veterinarians treat our dying pets better than our doctors are allowed to treat our fellow human beings in the later stages of life and dying. We must start talking about “quality of life” as being more important than “quantity of life”. Even with the best written Advanced Directives such as living wills, the laws are still on the side of keeping you alive at all costs. Harm can indeed mean, keeping someone alive, against their wishes, well past their expiration date.
Here in the USA are starting a great experiment in Oregon and other states with physician assisted suicide for the terminal ill. The restrictions are strict and often not serving the populous that needs it most. Mental competency and less than a six month life span are conditions required for approval. This leaves many dementia patient unable to take this option, even if they had stated being in favor of this option before the dementia took hold. On top of this only a minor percentage of people actually given the drugs and the option, actually chose to use them. We will have to wait and see how this process works, but so far it has not really changed the overall way people die. Even in Oregon, as well as, every other state in the United States, it is unequivocally illegal to take your own life.
There are many ways to end life and as one gets older. There are plants that may help with this. We naturally start to think about dying and how we would like to have it occur. We worry about being the only one who thinks that way, which is why having others to talk with so important. It is okay to think about and talk about death, and the many ways to die. Death is the only natural conclusion to life.
Death Cafe’s are held the 3rd Tuesday of every month from 6 to 8 pm at Asian Healing Arts in the FlexSpace, please come join us for a lively conversation.