Thursday, March 19, 2009

Does the End Justify the Means?


Human suffering, so we are taught, and so I mostly believe, leads to enlightenment. Growth. A greater understanding of the gift of life itself.

But what if?

No hope, no enlightenment in cases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, dementia, or a brain tumor? Something we don't know how to heal and leaves the recipient with no mental faculties, years of misery and years of misery for family, caretakers, and friends?

So we have laws, in a few states, that if a person still has full faculties and wants to end his/her life, they can do so if they can find a physician to help them. Is it merciful? Cowardice? How do their families and friends handle it? Does it matter? I am at peace with those laws. No agenda.

A counselor who works with depression once told me, "Suicide is what people do when they can't think of anything else to do."

I have a friend whose husband killed himself after years of treatment for cancer. He couldn't eat or drink by mouth, but was fully cognizant when he shot himself. It was a total shock. She almost went under in reaction. After several years of treatment herself, she is a strong, empathetic friend to have. And she is still angry about his death. Not unforgiving--that would not be healthy for her. But angry. She might have been, anyway. But HER suffering would have been less if he had gone on, and I'm sure he told himself his sudden demise would mean LESS suffering.

And then my own experience. Mother had Alzheimer's. Her body was very strong. When she was cognizant and aware (and suffering because of her awareness), she told me, "It is if I write my life on a giant blackboard as fast as I can, and it is erased as fast as I can write it."

Four years after she went into care she forgot my name. But her face would still light up when I came in. Many aren't so lucky. But I would cry all the way home. Twelve years after she went into nursing care, her autonomic system failed and she died.

Mother would never have chosen suicide. And look at me. Did I grow? Did I learn? Reluctantly, I have to say I did.

Do I believe in stopping persons from suicide? Yes, because often, it isn't their lives that have failed, but for a bit, their imagination. Is that another word for hope? I think so...

People without hope have an explosive effect on society. The fracture they create spreads out in ripples. Ask surviving victims of a suicide bomber.

Ask family and friends of a suicide.

1 comment:

J.R.Shirley said...

A lot of this is cultural. If we lived in a society in which suicide was accepted, the effects would be less catastrophic. The worst end I can imagine for myself is paralyzed and helpless. I'd choose death every day of the week over that.