Medically assisted dying an important option

Letter writer has seen too many loved ones suffer

I have long been a supporter of the right to choose to die with dignity, at the time each of us feels it is time to go.

I have watched the decline and death of both parents, both parents-in-law, and quite a few close friends from a multitude of types of cancer. It is a most horrific way to die. All of these people were of sound mind at the time of death and were in terrible pain. I am sure that if there had been any way to shorten the decline, they would have taken it.

I was 21 years old at the time my father died of stomach cancer – a torturous nine months after diagnosis. It took me over 15 years to be able to visualize my father in a positive manner – 15 years of having the first memory that flashed through my mind of him as he looked in his last month – just a skeleton with skin. He was under 80 pounds when he died.

After watching that and seeing how it devastated all his family and friends, I decided then that I would not do that to those I love and care for. If I am told I have a disease of any type that is progressive and terminal, I will be planning my death well before I can no longer make the decision for myself.

My family all know this and support it.

I worked for many years in the home support business, as a manager and supervisor. Many of the staff that worked with palliative clients came in to talk to me because their clients had expressed the desire to die; some of them asked the staff to assist them so the family would not have to do it. The clients felt that the staff should know how to do that, and at the time, it was not allowed. Some of the staff would have done it if it was allowed, some would not. Again, it comes to sound mind and choices.

Having this possibility available at hospice only makes sense to me. How much easier for the patient and the family than having to figure out how to manage it themselves? Why not make the passing as easy as possible, so the living will have less painful, negative memories?

If the patient is aware and can make choices, this would be so much better than having to enlist assistance from family. Even if family members agree, it would likely create some guilt for them and possibly some legal issues for them as well.

The issues Mr. Throness brings up sounds like fear-mongering to me. He suggests that patients would be put to death by the staff in hospices as a matter of routine, whether or not the patient chooses this. Does he not understand what “the right to choose” means? It means just that patients can choose how they end life, whether it be by allowing the disease to run its usual course, or to leave this earthly plane when they feel ready to go. Of course, the staff at hospice should have the choice to assist or not, without fear of putting their job in jeopardy.

As far as his “slippery slope” argument goes, there are such things as legal documents to safeguard a patient’s choices. We use them now for do-not-resuscitate orders and to limit medical intervention. We just need another document to cover the assisted death choice.

I apologize for being long-winded here, but as you can tell, I have thought long and hard about this (I am now 69) and I feel very strongly about this.

Mary Spani

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