A dignified death is all any of us can hope for. Barring accidents, cataclysmic events, and serious disease, all of which are beyond our control, when we reach the end of our lives, the most we can wish for is a dignified end, hopefully and selfishly, without pain.

      I was reminded of this when we had to euthanize one of our pet dogs this week. She had lived a long, comfortable, and safe life after being a rescue dog over twelve years ago – she was the equivalent of approximately 100 in human terms, according to breed statistics. She had congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension and, finally, atrial fibrillation. She had undergone an experimental procedure to insert a heart valve which extended her life by almost three years, according to her doctors. The operation was palliative and, this week, it was time – she told us that in her eyes, her lack of appetite, and her general demeanor. Her doctor confirmed the same conclusion.

      The vet who performed the final step was kind, considerate, extremely professional, and efficient. Sandy slowly went to sleep, first with a relaxing lotion on her gums, then a sedative to make her sleep peacefully and, finally the euthanizing shot that ended her life.

      My partner and I discussed the process afterwards and, through our tearful emotion, we wondered why we can’t do the same thing for humans and, in particular, our friends and family, when they, and their doctors, tell us they are ready. It was particularly poignant to me because my mother died at 101 after an obviously long and fruitful life: I am sure, she would have been more than ready to go quite a bit before that.

      The only reason my partner and I could come up with as to why the vast majority of us, in most countries, can’t be afforded the same kindness, is the mandate of religions. All religions have their rules about death, and how it should be handled, but few take into account the wishes of the dying person. In many jurisdictions, assisted suicide (a deliberately harsh description, inspired by religion as a deterrent) is a criminal offense. That strikes me as cruel and unnecessary punishment, both for the dying person and for those that assist, based on some arrogant and haughty doctrine of clerics who purport to be carrying out the wishes of their god. The fact that they have managed to coerce the politicians into making any sort of euthanation illegal makes the situation worse. What they are actually doing is perpetrating the controlling doctrine of their man-made religious institutions. Whatever god they invoke in support of their doctrines has nothing to do with it, and neither does any sense of compassion or understanding.

      I don’t think I had ever really thought about this before in any detail. Sandy’s death this week, along with the creeping understanding of my own mortality, have probably brought these ideas into sharper focus.

      I realize that these comments may bring down the wrath of god/gods on me but, perhaps, not. After all, the “laws” that govern our death are all man-made. The people who make those “laws” have no more idea than I do if god/gods think the same, or even if they exist at all.

      Perhaps it’s time to rethink our “obedience” to the religious doctrines that govern our deaths and develop some concepts and processes that show compassion and understanding while guarding against abuses that can occur no matter whether we are religious or not. If we could do that, we might persuade the politicians to reconsider their legislation governing death and build a society that most of us would like to have when they consider our, and their own, inevitable deaths.

      Food for thought.

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1 thought on “A DIGNIFIED DEATH”

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    First of all, I was sorry to hear about Sandy. Secondly, I could not agree more. I would have thought that the choice of a dignified death was a basic right. My father, in the few lucid moments of his dementia frequently pleaded with me to “shoot” him. A bit exaggerated but his wishes were clear.

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