Earlier today, a friend told me about this Frontline piece called "Suicide Tourist" about a gentleman with ALS who decided to travel to Switzerland to be able to control his death.
More and more folks are considering this as a viable option . . . A British couple - Edward Downes and his wife - chose to go to Switzerland last summer in order to die together in the way and at the time of their own choosing. If any of you have known someone with ALS, it is an excruciating disease in that you are still "in there" but you slowly lose control of all your body's functions. Your body fails you . . . as Craig Ewert says, "you become an empty shell." And the timely facing of decisions that are inevitably on the horizon takes great courage - more courage than I possess! As Craig observes - "Not my choice if I had other options . . ."
But is it right to facilitate an individual's choice to control the time and manner in which he or she shall die? What is right and what is wrong? Our government and Britain's government and many governments have decided as a matter of public policy that choosing suicide - either through euthanasia (when a doctor administers the fatal dose) or through assisted suicide (when the patient self-administers the fatal dose) is wrong. But what about palliative sedation and how is treating someone's existential pain by sedation any different than euthanasia?
Is the ethical justification of "double effect" (when the primary intention is a patient's good - to relieve suffering - while the secondary effect may be a patient's death) sufficient protection to conclude such a death is good and right and should be condoned by our laws?
Personally, I agree with Bob Truog that the rationale of "double effect" is a figurative "fig leaf" - a justification for a difficult decision that has to be determined by each individual patient's need and situation and not by a doctor's intention. All that's to say, I do not know the answer. All I know is that some people suffer greatly and there may be times when compassion cries out a demand for relief. Even Jesus' side was pierced . . .
Anyway, I am rambling to no conclusion so here's the website link. If it doesn't work it was a Frontline piece called "Suicide Tourist" . . .
It is hard to watch . . . more precisely, it is excruciating to watch. But you have to think, if it is hard for us to watch, sitting safely in front of our computers, how much harder it must be to live such a life and to make such a decision.
May the calm of our hearts be stirred by great compassion -