Death, Grief, Suffering, & Euthanasia
My dog died recently after being with me for over twelve years. He died because I had him killed. He was not actively dying of any acute condition, his heart was in good shape, he was not terribly overweight, he was not losing his mental faculties, his olfactory sense was as sharp as ever, and as far as I know, he did not have any malignant cancers. All that being said, he was completely def in one ear and mostly def in the other, his cataracts were so bad that he couldn’t make out faces or even see more than a few meters away, and his arthritis was getting so bad that he could barely walk or take a shit. Def and blind, sure, whatever; but the arthritis was causing him great pain and suffering. The pain medications were no longer effective and his quality of life was decreasing rapidly. I loved that dog like a son, and I made the moral decision to end his suffering. I found a vet who would come to my home, and scheduled his euthanasia for the next day my wife had off work. The vet gave him some medications to take away his pain, then after a few minutes she gave him a lethal dose of barbiturates to gradually stop his breathing and eventually his heart. He died in my arms without any pain or suffering.
Which brings me to the first point of this post: I ended his life because he was in pain, not because he was already dying. I could have extended his life for probably another year or two, but that would have been a selfish act on my part and a disservice to him. I could have picked him up and put him in a wagon to carry him outside several times a day. I could have held him up while he urinated and defecated. I could have cleaned up the inevitable urine and feces when it was so excruciating that he could no longer control his bowels. I could have given him regular baths to clean all the feces out of his hair from where he just laid in it because he could not get up. I could have hand fed him and held his head over a bowl of water so he could drink. He would have accepted my help and suffered until something finally killed him. Being a dog means that he was not aware of his own mortality. He was not aware that there was an alternative to the pain and suffering. I could have kept him alive, in pain, and utterly miserable, but why? I would not be preventing my sorrow, only postponing it. Death sucks, but it’s an inevitability no one can escape. Why would I torture a loved one and prolong their agony just because they had not yet been stricken with a terminal illness? If you have a pet who is suffering, and pain medications are no longer enough, help them out! Let go of the selfish desire to keep them with you and say goodbye.
Fortunately, the law allows a person to kill their dog whenever they see fit. I wish we would have been together longer, but at a certain point it became cruel to keep him alive. The grief is hard to deal with, but the decision to put him down was an easy one. I loved that dog like a son, and when I could no longer take away his pain with medications, I took away his pain with death. He died comfortably, with dignity, in his home, and surrounded by loved ones. We should all be so lucky.
Which brings me to the second point of this post: Why the hell do we not allow euthanasia for people? California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Vermont, and the District of Columbia all have Death with Dignity laws, but how about the other 45 states? How can you claim any sense of morality when you force people to suffer until they finally reach a slow and agonizing death? Hospice helps relieve some of that suffering, but we still force people to wait, prisoners on a sinking ship, until their bodies eventually give up. No one, doctors included, quite knows when a person in hospice will die. Patients have to wait around, in pain, dealing with the fear and uncertainty of an impending death. It’s cruel to the person dying and it’s cruel to their loved ones. When my wife’s grandmother was dying of cancer and had been admitted to hospice, my wife had to endure the anguish of a loved one dying for months, with no certainty of when it might happen. Eventually her grandmother died alone, without any family members able to get there in time. That’s just wrong! We as a society have determined it more humane to euthanize an animal rather than allow it to suffer a slow and agonizing death. Why then is it illegal for a human to end their own suffering? The only justifications are based on religion, which has no place in law or government.
So to the state lawmakers in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming: by not taking action to correct the law, you are directly responsible for the pain and suffering inflicted on terminally ill patients in your state. Your lifetime risk of dying of cancer is 1 in 4. Do you really want you or your loved ones to die a slow painful death? Do the right thing and make it legal in all 50 states.
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