Rational adults should be able to end their suffering

Image courtesy of Jernej Furman.

Two 84-year-olds were found dead in Destin not long ago.

They were a couple. The woman was under hospice care. The man called lawmen and said something about suicides. Both were found with gunshot wounds. That’s all I know right now. I’m sure more details will come to light.

Likely they were married for years, possibly for decades, because a man does not kill himself because his wife is dying unless he’s been in love with her a long time. There’s a kind of tragic romance to that, the stuff of songs. But there’s another aspect that is not so song-worthy. In fact, it’s pitiable.

The suffering.

Hospice does not become involved until the end is near. Its arrival, depending on the disease, is sometimes preceded by suffering – unbelievable suffering.

I watched my dad take that route. He went from a robust hulk of a man who could build anything to a frail shell who could barely walk, and in the end couldn’t even do that. This happened in the space of seven months after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was sickening to watch. For him, it was much worse – the terrible pain, of course, but also the knowledge this would end only one way.

We never talked about it, but I imagine at one point he wished he could take a pill and go to sleep forever. Had I been in his position, I would. I know others in his situation wished they could take a pill. Had they not, folks like Jack Kevorkian would never have become so influential in our culture.

Yet we continue to barbarically insist our loved ones remain alive until that last excruciating breath is drawn. Why? Why would we impose such pain and suffering on the people we most care about?

I looked around for reasons to oppose euthanasia. I am still shaking my head.

“Voluntary euthanasia is unnecessary because alternative treatments exist,” according to the Christian Medical Fellowship. “Voluntary euthanasia denies patients the final stage of growth. Voluntary euthanasia undermines medical research. Voluntary euthanasia leads to euthanasia tourism.”

Are these people out of their minds?

Alternative treatments exist? To terminal cancer? I and the rest of the world would like to know what these ‘alternative treatments’ are.

Euthanasia denies patients the final stage of growth? Growth of what? If you’re talking about some lofty ideal involving one’s spirituality or maturity, count me out. That experience does me and everybody else zero good at all.

As for medical research and euthanasia tourism, please forgive my selfishness when I say those two items will not be high on my priority list when a doctor tells me I’ve got six months to live.

I find it odd we grant more humanity to our pets than we do our family members. Here, let me tell you another story from my personal experience:

Back in 2005 my cat was dying of renal failure. Ironically, it was an experience that mirrored my father’s ordeal. The cat slowly lost weight and became weaker, despite the IVs, special foods, vitamins and medicines she had received. Finally it became obvious to me her quality of life had descended below a level even I couldn’t bear. My vet assured me I would know when it was time, and it was time.

So, I let her walk in the grass a final time, then bundled her into the cat carrier and took her to the vet’s office. As she lay in my lap, the vet gave her a shot of Valium, which put her to sleep immediately. Another shot followed, the one that put her to sleep forever. I took her home and buried her in the back yard.

I’m glad I was able to do that for her, because she was suffering. The poor cat couldn’t even lie down, she hurt so bad.

I think if a person is rational, and they want to end their life, they should be allowed to. Seems to me the same safeguards built into probate could be extended to end-of-life issues. The patient, not the doctor, would be making the determination.

Instead, we cling to an outmoded view that people can’t be trusted to make such decisions for themselves.

Sometimes they do it anyway, with a bottle of pills, or a gun.

How very, very sad.

(This column was previously published in the June 5, 2016 Northwest Florida Daily News.)

About the author:

Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”

Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.

As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.

Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at delstonejr.com .


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