Caring for dying husband was “best seven months of my life.”
A moving and thoughtful piece recently ran in the Washington Post in which the author describes the final months with her husband who had terminal cancer. It’s an important story that honestly explores what it’s like when a loved one is going through the last stages of life. The full article can be found by clicking here.
Perhaps not surprisingly, positive stories about the value of time with loved ones at the end of life often get lost or ignored during the debate on physician-assisted suicide, falsely coloring the legislative process. Individuals with terminal illness are not a burden that society must consider how to remove quickly and quietly. In fact, death and dying is an opportunity to spend precious, final time with loved ones.
One of the side effects of the legalization of PAS is that it forces people with a terminal illness to feel like a burden on their loved ones and society – and physician-assisted suicide is the only dignified way out. The Oregon experience backs this up: those people who request the lethal prescription overwhelmingly cite becoming a burden on their family as one of the top reasons they chose physician-assisted suicide. According to the Oregon Death with Dignity Act 2015 Data Summary from the Oregon Public Health Division, 92.4% of patients that pursue physician-assisted suicide cite loss of autonomy as a motivating factor.
But as this story shows, dying does not make you a burden. In fact, it is often the opposite, as the author points out: “Caregiving has gotten a bad name in this country. Being a caregiver to someone you love can be transcendent, a gift. And yet for too many it feels like punishment.” And although her role as caregiver was exceptionally challenging it brought her happiness; she writes: “Some days were more difficult than others, but there were moments of joy, laughter, tenderness in every day — if I was willing to look hard enough.”
This story is not an outlier. There are many more that are never written about in a newspaper. As the fight against legalizing physician-assisted suicide continues, it’s important to remember that the dying are not a burden, and that every minute spent with them is an opportunity to bring joy and calm to family and loved ones.
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