Yesterday I attended the funeral service for the mother of a friend. The mother was in her late 80s and for the past 10 years had suffered from dementia. Her quality of life was not good. My friend had to put her in a nursing home eight years ago but she spent a good part of her days with her mother.
It got me thinking of quality versus quantity of life. For those of you who have been following this blog you may remember that my parents did not live to a ripe old age. My dad died of brain cancer at 66 when I was 16 and my mom died of a sudden brain aneurysm at age 63 when I was 22. Here we have my dad suffering from some form of cancer off and on for six years before he died. He was not in a good place (and I don’t mean the hospital) in the last few months. Mom, on the other hand, had a few headaches, then the aneurysm and despite surgery, she died five days later.
Two of my maternal uncles and a first cousin once removed (I hate that ancestry categorization – sounds like they are getting kicked out of the family) lived into their 90s. When the cousin died at 90, she was blind, had dementia and a bad heart. One uncle, my godfather, died at the same age. He had dementia and heart problems. The other uncle, not a blood relative, died at age 98 and was healthy – mind and body – almost up to when he died.
My paternal grandfather died in his early 70s the same year my parents were married – so before I was born. My paternal grandma died in her mid-80s of a heart attack. She still had all her mental facilities and was able to get around okay.
That’s my history. But I’ve seen a lot of other suffering from illnesses and from my observations I truly believe that quality of life trumps quantity. If your mind is gone; if your body is filled with sickness that will kill you, is there a point in carrying on?
However, having said that I believe it is up to the individual to decide if they want to end their life sooner than later if they are terminally ill (of mind and/or body). It is not up to God’s will (and how often has that term been mis-used – from the family of terminally ill people praying for a miracle, to if the person dies well, they say, it was just God’s will.)
Excuse me. It is not God’s life but yours, mine – the person who is terminally will. If God gave us free will then we should have the right, if terminally ill, to decide if we want to die sooner than later. Quality over quantity.
And that’s where the problem arises.
Canada now has given the okay to assisted suicide, although the details have to be worked out. I have a problem with that, not because it will still be up to the dying person to decide, but because another person has to get involved. For every other medical procedure and the like I believe medical doctors have to go by the letter of the law – whatever their beliefs. But not here. I think they should be allowed to go by their conscience as long as they recommend a doctor who will assist in suicide. And not interfere with the dying person’s choice.
The other problem is often a person is too sick to decide and unfortunately hasn’t made a living will. So the family members try to impose what they want and believe to be right, not necessarily what the dying person wants. And not all family members agree.
So, it is a dilemma. Maybe we should have had it built into our being that if and when we become terminally ill, we just die right away.
Of course, some won’t make it that far because of other people’s actions, from vehicle crashes to plane crashes like the German plane crashing over France because of the co-pilot’s deliberate actions.
Perhaps the only thing to do is carpe diem – something I struggle with because of all the problems in my life – and I don’t mean just health-related.
What do you think?
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes