Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Almost Unbelievable

This story is one of the saddest that has come out New Orleans. It's about a doctor who made the decision to end her patients suffering; knowing they would die if she did nothing, she gave them lethal injections of morphine. This touches on many sensitive issues, none of which have easy answers. If I were dying a slow and painful death, I know that I would chose an easy way out without a moment's hesitation - I am quite the coward when it comes to pain. But do I want someone else to have the power to make that decision for me? Do I want it to become too easy to do, so that people can legally be killed simply because it's cheaper and/or easier than trying to keep them alive? What if I don't have the power to communicate my wishes, and someone else makes the decision to give me a lethal dose of medication? The summer before my senior year of high school I worked on the cancer floor at a local hospital. I saw many older, dying people. Some were in extreme pain, some weren't. Some were alone, some had large families. Some had been waiting for the end for a long time, and wanted it to come. Some would fight for as long as they could. One woman's daughter had brought a grandchild to visit. The little boy was only 5 years old, and the dying woman knew that the only memory her grandson would have of her would not be pleasant. Another man was thankful for each and every visit that his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren made to see him. He said that he had seen them more since he went into the hospital than he had in the previous two years. I don't know what the answer to this should be. It obviously has to be an option for everyone, or an option for no one. Is it worth keeping those who would use the situation unethically away from the possibility if that means that people suffer unnecessarily? Making a decision to end a loved one's life would be no easier than standing by and watching them suffer.

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