Forums > Personal > Thoughts on euthanasia and when/if it's appropriate

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Thistleboy1980 user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 16 May 11, 15:15 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I know this is a bit of a taboo subject, and I really hope I am not upsetting or offending anyone by raising it here.  Apologies in advance if this is the case, but I am just curious, so please bear with me....

Whilst at work a couple of days ago, a lady passed by, pushing an ageing man in a wheelchair.   I am not aware of what illness the man suffered from exactly, but his entire body was contorted, his limbs were of unequal length, his neck was twisted and his eyes were rolling.  He couldn't communicate at all, so in other words, was in a vegetative state.  It didn't appear that it was a severe cerebal palsy case, and it did not look as though he was a stroke victim.  He clearly was unaware that he even existed, let alone knowing who he was or where he was.

It was a real shame, but I couldn't help but think "what's the point?".  I didn't mean that in a disrespectful manner, but was upset that the guy had got to such an age (I'd guestimate late 60s) without any quality of life.  In fact, I can't help but think that it's not even life.  I mean, I know the guy was alive, but was he actually living?  It's my opinon that you are your brain, and that the body...well, that's just a shell.  His heart may have been beating, but HE definitely wasn't there.

I spoke to the mrs later in the evening about it, and asked her for her thoughts, and that quickly turned to the subject of euthanasia and if/when such an option is appropriate.  She says that a life is still a life and, as he had no real thought process, he couldn't have a say in what happened, so euthanasia is not appropriate in this case.  However, she is not against the idea if someone who knows they're ill wants to finish it.  I feel that he is not alive and so the humane thing is to shut the body down.  I know that may sound insensitive, but I feel it reduces the hurt and stress caused to family/carers, as who is to know how much longer the body will go on?

Again, I don't mean to cause upset, I'd just like to know your thoughts on the matter...


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Posted: 16 May 11, 18:56 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I have watched several pets become ill and unable to live their lives in a pain-free or playful (for a cat or dog) way. When their quality of life diminished, it became a choice of whether we wanted to (selfishly) keep them alive so we could say they were not dead or let them die peacefully before things got worse since death was coming soon for them anyway. And it wouldn't be pretty.
.

If we can ease the physical and emotional pain for our pets, give them the gift of death with dignity, then I think we should be able to do that for the people we love as well. If we could all put those wishes in writing while we're well and know they'd be carried out when we no longer are, I think there would be a lot less suffering for everyone - the ill person and that person's family.

Of course, the problem lies with those who will abuse the wish, though I think with safe-guards in place, that could be avoided. Mostly.

Touchy subject since even some pet owners will not put their pets down before their so-called 'time'.


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Posted: 16 May 11, 22:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I think eligibility should extend to people who attend the Grammies.


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Posted: 17 May 11, 16:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Watching several elderly family members with severe illnesses, and seen the way it affected their quality of life, i don't have the kneejerk reaction to the topic whihc i used to have.  Particularly watching a relative with severe dementia, tortured by vicious hallucinations on a constant basis, i know that i wouldnt want to live through that.  But on the otehr hand, i dont think i could make the decision on someone else's behalf either.  It would take a huge amount of strength, which i simply dont think i have.  It is open to abuse -- there is the contraversy in switzerland now over people travelling there for assisted suicide.  And especially with inheritance issues, and very stressed carers, it would need to be carefully guarded.  I think i would likely vote against legalising euthanasia, but at the same time, i do think it may be a necessary evil... just one that i dont want responsibility for.  :/  selfish, isnt it :/

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Posted: 17 May 11, 17:15 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

My dad died of liver cancer in 1998. By the time it was diagnosed, he had no chance of surviving. He stopped eating and drinking and died within about a month of going into hospital. They had him on a drip, which artifically kept him going, but he had made the decision not to eat and drink so that his death wouldn't be drawn out. It was very painful seeing him towards the end and if it had've been legal I would've been okay with the hospital withdrawing the drip or, better still, giving him an overdose of morphine and letting him die peacefully. In that way, we could've all said our goodbyes and been there when he died. I wasn;t. My wife was heavily pregnant and I couldn't stay in the hopsital with my dad. I wasn't there when he died. I'll never get over that.


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Posted: 17 May 11, 18:53 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Holly2003 wrote: My dad died of liver cancer in 1998. By the time it was diagnosed, he had no chance of surviving. He stopped eating and drinking and died within about a month of going into hospital. They had him on a drip, which artifically kept him going, but he had made the decision not to eat and drink so that his death wouldn't be drawn out. It was very painful seeing him towards the end and if it had've been legal I would've been okay with the hospital withdrawing the drip or, better still, giving him an overdose of morphine and letting him die peacefully. In that way, we could've all said our goodbyes and been there when he died. I wasn;t. My wife was heavily pregnant and I couldn't stay in the hopsital with my dad. I wasn't there when he died. I'll never get over that. =============================================================================================

That is so moving, and I am so sorry that you had to go through that, Holly.  I watched my grandad die from cancer 8 years ago and it was one of the most upsetting experiences of my life - I was up at the hospice pretty much every day and spent hours by his side, even when he had slipped into a coma.  I can remember just wishing that it was over soon, as I knew that he was dying (he didn't actually know because the doctors didn't think he was strong enough mentally to take the news, so he was eating, drinking and taking treatment to "beat" the illness). But when that time came, I was devastated.  He passed just a few moments before I got to see him that day, which was extremely upsetting.  Just a few years later, it was my gran, who had a heart attack on Christmas day of 2006 - she was brought round by docs, but had been starved of oxygen for over 20 minutes and so would have been brain-damaged had she pulled through.  My mum was asked that, if she arrested again, what did we want the docs to do, and my mum said just to leave her be.  Not quite euthanasia, I know, but at least we were given options. She did arrest again, and we allowed her to pass -  I was there when it happened, and that was just as painful as not being there for my grandad.  So I guess what I'm saying is it's OK to say "let them go" when you're an outsider, but when the shoe is on the other foot.... I know we did the right thing, but it is still painful.


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Posted: 17 May 11, 18:55 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I swear people who don't believe in euthanasia have never been on morphine.  Seriously, the stuff is brilliant, and if you've got to go ... I can't think of a better way.  That's just me.


"Your not funny, your not a good musician, theres a difference between being funny and being an idiot, you obviously being the latter" - Dave R Fuller
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Posted: 17 May 11, 19:16 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Holly2003 wrote: I couldn't stay in the hopsital with my dad. I wasn't there when he died. I'll never get over that.
======

I'm so sorry this happened but have to believe in some way, he understood. When it was my grandfather's time, I stayed with him for two days straight, leaving only for bathroom breaks. On the third day, I had to run a quick errand for my mom and that's when he passed. My grandmother, just a few months ago, was going downhill fast. I got plane tickets as soon as I could, took the redeye and waited for a cab rather than take the shuttle. I know I had a reason for waiting for the cab, but have no memory of what that reason was. Waiting those extra ten minutes made all the difference. She passed just before I arrived. I, like you, will never get over that. If we can somehow control that moment, then, as you said, we could all be there to say our goodbyes and I love yous rather than be forever haunted by what we could have or should have done.


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Posted: 18 May 11, 15:04 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thistleboy 1980 wrote:

I know this is a bit of a taboo subject, and I really hope I am not upsetting or offending anyone by raising it here.

========================

No subject is taboo.  If people feel offended by a particular subject, that is ultimately their choice.  People only choose to attach such labels to things beyond their personal comfort zone.  No subject matter is above rational discourse.

So chat away, unapologetically !  It is only when everyone does this will we be able to understand and learn to care for one another.

Great thread, btw.  Much to consider in here.


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Posted: 18 May 11, 15:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

magicalfreddiemercury wrote:

Touchy subject since even some pet owners will not put their pets down before their so-called 'time'.

=====================

These are the same people whose dogs cry from 9-5 Monday to Friday because they are alone in the house.  I think it is horribly selfish for people to take animals as pets in cases like this when they can't be bothered to consider how the pet feels - only how THEY feel.  And when their pet is ill, those same people are likely to keep the pet alive for as long as possible so that they can defer THEIR grieving process, regardless of how much the animal is suffering.  But most people are purely fueled by self-interest, so this should come as no surprise to anyone who's keeping score.

As for humans, this is why we have a living will.  We can indicate exactly what we want to be done for us after we have become unable to do so for ourselves.  Myself, I don't want a penny to be spent to keep me alive if I cannot keep myself alive, as there are people with a chance who could use those resources  And I certainly wouldn't want my loved ones to watch me in such a state.  They should be getting on with their lives instead of waiting for the inevitable.


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Posted: 18 May 11, 19:17 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

@ Holly - What struck me about your story beyond what others have already mentioned was the fact that that child and any others you had later would never have known your dad, nor he them.  That must be kind of a sad thing that lingers as well. Grandparents are so important, as is the chance for us to become good fathers and mothers in our parents eyes, and it's something most of us can take for granted for some years. :(

@ Sir GH - I don't think pain about the suffering of animals can be about anything but our own pain.  We can't know how they're feeling for sure, nor what they'd choose for themselves if they had that ability. I think it's far less about self interest and far more about genuine doubt and the only frame of reference we really have, which is the inviolate value of human life, applied to pets by owners who often love them like children.

Regarding the living will - my doctor has asked me for the last two years what my wishes would be so he could record them and share that with my family and loved ones should they even need to make any decisions about me.    I haven't been able to tell him thus far, because I just don't know.  There are so many possible situations and I don't know that there is one answer for all of them.  But he doesn't want an essay, he just wants to know what extraordinary measures I'd want if somebody has determined somehow that I'm not really me any more.   I have been able to figure that out yet.

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Posted: 19 May 11, 01:00 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

GratefulFan wrote:

@ Sir GH - I don't think pain about the suffering of animals can be about anything but our own pain.  We can't know how they're feeling for sure, nor what they'd choose for themselves if they had that ability.  I think it's far less about self interest and far more about genuine doubt and the only frame of reference we really have, which is the inviolate value of human life, applied to pets by owners who often love them like children.

=============================

You raise a good point on a moral level, but it is scientifically undefendable.  It is now widely accepted that nearly all mammals and birds have similar nervous systems to ours.

But most people would rather not research such a thing themselves, because it might mean they have to leave their comfort zone and make a decision that might not benefit them in the short term.


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Posted: 19 May 11, 06:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I always seem to have a 'story', which makes my 15-year-old heave some rather dramatic sighs. Still I tell them...

I volunteered at a no-kill animal shelter for about four years. Originally, I thought 'no-kill' simply meant if an animal was not adopted within a certain time-frame, they would not be put down to make room or to save funds. I did not realize it meant the animals would be made to live out their natural lives regardless what illness ravaged their bodies. It was clear many of them suffered - in all honesty GFF, there's little question that animals suffer. True, their suffering might be different than human suffering due to interpretation, but pain and inability definitely affect an animal's quality of life. But, back to the shelter... the administration's policy was to let nature take its course. It was cruel and inhumane, and I found myself adopting a lot more animals than I should have just so I could help give them peace. It was heartbreaking to let them go but no more so than watching them linger.

Point is, when it comes to pets, some people are indeed selfish and refuse to let go and, as you said SirGH, put off the grieving as long as they can. But there is also apathy, and while you'd think people involved with animals - as pet owners, caretakers or shelter workers - would have a sensitivity toward those animals and want what is best for them, too many of them simply want what's best/easier for themselves.

I think the same is true in some families, and that's where euthanasia issues become a problem. I've seen suffering and would not want to be forced to linger. I think, for example, a person whose body is riddled with malignant tumors should have the right to choose their time of death. People should take responsibilities for themselves and make their wishes known and official. And if they cannot make that decision while they're still healthy and lucid, they should continue to research and let their concerns be known so when/if family members have to make a decision, they have their dying loved one's thoughts available to consider.


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Posted: 19 May 11, 08:50 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

magicalfreddiemercury wrote:

I always seem to have a 'story', which makes my 15-year-old heave some rather dramatic sighs. Still I tell them...

==============

This made me smile.  I have a potentially endless font of stories that I feel like I have to forcibly cap myself sometimes.  In fact I had typed up the Monty Python-esque tale last night about saying goodbye to my grandfather before he died when I was 13 only to cancel it at the last moment under thinking that went something like "Jesus Christ GF, nobody cares!" LOL  That said, I do like your stories.  Keep them coming. :)

magicalfreddiemercury wrote:

I volunteered at a no-kill animal shelter for about four years. Originally, I thought 'no-kill' simply meant if an animal was not adopted within a certain time-frame, they would not be put down to make room or to save funds. I did not realize it meant the animals would be made to live out their natural lives regardless what illness ravaged their bodies. It was clear many of them suffered - in all honesty GFF, there's little question that animals suffer. True, their suffering might be different than human suffering due to interpretation, but pain and inability definitely affect an animal's quality of life. But, back to the shelter... the administration's policy was to let nature take its course. It was cruel and inhumane, and I found myself adopting a lot more animals than I should have just so I could help give them peace. It was heartbreaking to let them go but no more so than watching them linger.Point is, when it comes to pets, some people are indeed selfish and refuse to let go and, as you said SirGH, put off the grieving as long as they can. But there is also apathy, and while you'd think people involved with animals - as pet owners, caretakers or shelter workers - would have a sensitivity toward those animals and want what is best for them, too many of them simply want what's best/easier for themselves

.==================================

I need to clarify - I am of course not saying that animals don't suffer.  I'm saying that because there is no way to know for certain when a pet's suffering has surpassed our ability to provide a life that is still worth living through comfort or accommodations or palliative measures, we must necessarily and by definition be acting from our own pain. Whether that pain is at the thought of the animal's perceived suffering a moment longer than necessary, or pain at making the decision to end a pet's life, it's still *our* pain. Our motives alone don't say much about the eventual rightness of any of our decisions- human fallibility means that there have been euthanasia actions that have come too late or not at all, and there are euthanasia actions that have come too soon or that shouldn't have come at all.  I could make a counter argument that those that advocate euthanasia that errs on the side of assuming all presumed suffering in most degrees warrants death may themselves be avoiding the pain of difficult questions about how to define the value of non human life to both ourselves and the animals over whom we have the power of life and death.

I don't disagree with the points about selfishness and apathy that have been made, I just think that the narrative left there is incomplete.  I don't think it singlehandedly defines the issue any more than pointing to pet owners who choose euthanasia to avoid extended veterinary bills or the increased care that comes with illness or infirmity completely defines the issue.  And like decisions with human lives, animal euthanasia pits difficult and emotionally charged situations in the moment against equally real but diffuse philosophical and spiritual questions and fears.  Both are capable of blotting each other out; both are capable of underestimating the importance of the other.  I believe it's as much a reason individuals and societies stay frozen and stuck and indecisive in the middle as something like selfishness.

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Posted: 19 May 11, 15:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

GratefulFan wrote:

"I don't think it singlehandedly defines the issue any more than pointing to pet owners who choose euthanasia to avoid extended veterinary bills or the increased care that comes with illness or infirmity completely defines the issue."

Ooh, good point.  Of course that's self-interest too, just from the other side.

"And like decisions with human lives, animal euthanasia pits difficult and emotionally charged situations in the moment against equally real but diffuse philosophical and spiritual questions and fears.  Both are capable of blotting each other out; both are capable of underestimating the importance of the other.  I believe it's as much a reason individuals and societies stay frozen and stuck and indecisive in the middle as something like selfishness."

That is one of the most intelligent statements I've ever read.  Much food for thought there.


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Posted: 19 May 11, 22:32 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

That's very kind of you to say Bob, and I appreciate it.  I'm grateful that I put something down that you find to be food for thought, but when it comes to complex things like euthanasia and even SlutWalks, I'm much better at seeing the issues and the holes than I am at seeing the answers. So I'm not all that smart. :)

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Posted: 20 May 11, 11:36 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

No, seeing the holes IS the very thing that makes you smart.  Anyone can come up with answers - it's just a matter of how informed they are/aren't.


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