The other day I had a meltdown. It was inevitable, really. I've just got too much on my plate right now, and I had to throw open the door to my Shadow closet before it either imploded or exploded. So it was actually a good thing, although the timing could have been a little better. ::sigh::
Among other things, something that has bothered me for a long time but now has become a front-row issue is how our society deals with aging and the elderly while at the same time spouting the praises of modern medicine's ability to allow people to live longer. Every other weekend I visit a place that is full of older people who are no longer capable of living alone or taking care of themselves. Some have physical issues, others have mental issues, and the really lucky ones have both. Some have devoted family members and/or friends who visit frequently and keep them at least marginally in the social loop, while others are totally alone because either their families and friends have abandoned them or they have no one who is still living or close enough to come. Many of them lay in their beds or sit in their wheelchairs and just stare or sleep all the time. Are they content? I have no idea. My grandmother was becoming one of those people towards the end, especially when she could no longer hear or make herself understood to those around her, and I know she was not enjoying that. She had been telling my mom for years that she was ready to die anytime; she was just waiting to go. We thought she had a health care directive ("living will") that indicated her wishes, but we were unable to find it; we still have no idea where it is, or if it ever existed. She was fortunate that she died naturally, before any decisions about life support had to be made.
I'm not afraid of death... I'm afraid of being forced to continue living after my body has decided it's time to die. While I do have a health care directive that clearly states I do not want to be kept alive in a permanently vegetative state, and I believe that both my husband and son would honor that wish, what about other types of situations? I believe that someone who is permanently in ill health or extreme pain but who is still in control of their mental faculties should be allowed to "let go" and die if they wish to do so; this would include people with dementia, Alzheimer's, or some other form of mental deterioration who still have fairly long periods of lucidity and rationality. I think it would be awesome to be able to do it surrounded by one's family and friends in a social ritual, like birthdays, weddings, showers, baptisms and confirmations; the way it is done in certain movies such as "Logan's Run" is a good example (although we'd have to change the part about it being a form of population control, with everyone being forced to die at a certain age regardless of their health).
I know it probably sounds horrible to many people, but why can't we be as 'humane' to those of our own species as we are to other animals who are ill or in pain and never going to get better? We have our pets and other animals "put to sleep" by a veterinarian rather than force them to live with a lingering illness or die a painful death. Why shouldn't people be allowed to do the same, with society's blessing? Now I'm definitely not saying it should be required of everyone (or anyone), and it should never be decided by someone other than the individual in question, but I do think it should be an option for each of us. Since DNR ("Do Not Resuscitate") directives are legal, why not legalize LMD ("Let Me Die") directives as well?
Remember Terri Schiavo? She lay in a nursing facility from 1990 to 2005, unable to move or speak, and the doctors said she was brain-dead, which meant she had no consciousness of anything or anyone. Her husband and parents fought for years over whether she should be kept on life support or allowed to die, and the only ones who actually benefited from this were the doctors, hospitals and nursing facilities who received exorbitant sums of money for keeping her alive while the fighting went on (not to mention the lawyers). Her family only ended up with heartache that continues to this day.
What do YOU think about this subject? Should it be socially acceptable for permanently ill or injured people to choose their time to die? Why or why not?