Death With Dignity?

This Pew Forum article discusses Oregon's 10 year old law permitting physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to certain terminally ill patients. The article says:
Oregon’s law applies only to patients who are terminally ill and likely to die within six months, a diagnosis that must be confirmed by two physicians. In addition, eligible patients must possess the mental capacity to give informed consent; cannot suffer from depression; and must sign a written declaration, in front of two witnesses, stating that they are mentally competent and acting voluntarily. Finally, while doctors may prescribe the lethal drugs, the dose must be administered by the patient. Between the time the statute was enacted in 1997 and the end of 2006, 292 terminally ill people had availed themselves of the right to end their lives, according to state records.
Do you have a living will or advanced medical directives? If so, what did you indicate about the measures to be taken to keep you alive if you are in a vegetative state? I opted to not be kept alive. Now I am not saying that both of these issues are the same.. just saying that many of us have already opted for death with dignity under certain conditions.


  1. Are you saying that you should be finished off with lethal drugs? Or that you should be allowed to die without heroic saving measures?

    Golly, I hope you don't mean the first one - that is deeply disturbing.

  2. Not saying either TZ ... just asking the uncomfortable question. Do you have a living will or advanced directives? Are you okay with being allowed to die when medicine could keep you alive? With the advances in medicine, why not be kept alive while waiting for a cure.. seems more pro-life than being kept comfortable while doctors lets you die?

  3. This is one of those really tough questions. I think it's wise to spell it out in a living will. I'd probably opt for the same. (And should get right on that).

    On the other side of this coin is the reality of trade-offs in terms of resource distribution for health services. For instance, there was a lot of focus on drugs for AIDS patients in Africa, which were found to prolong their life by about one year. That's great, but if the resources are going to something expensive that gives only one extra life while thousands of infants are dying from preventable diseases like malaria and dehydration from diarhea (from lack of clean water), then I don't think it's the best course. It's kind of like stem cell research. I have a problem with taking from children to keep adults alive longer. Just a thought...

  4. "the reality of trade-offs"

    You got my head spinning on this one Sarah ... good thought-provoking stuff!

  5. I'm going to recommend your blog for an award, you come up with the most thought provoking questions!

    I wrote out a living will when I became a mohter. Since I was not married it seemed very necessary to leave directions on who I wanted to be my child's gaurdian (my sis) so I threw in the part about not keeping me alive on any life support.

    This is hard to admit, but I am going to say it anyhow. Even though I know its not our right to choose when we die - that its up to God...I would rather take a lethal does of pills than put my family through the suffering of watching me die. Typically at "the end" the person is kept in such a drug induced state that they are not really themnselves. I was devastated watch my father linger at death's door. He said some things that still upset me today when I remember them and it was 33 years ago.

  6. I have an ethical living will, one developed AFTER Terri Schiavo was starved to death. As long as my body can accept and digest nourishment, I am to be fed and watered. If my condition is terminal, I am to be kept comfortable until God takes away the breath he gave me. If my lungs cannot breathe any more, then I can be taken off the machines, and if I can't digest food, then I can stop being fed, but a "DNR" order does not mean that I am to be actively killed in any way.

    And I pledged to my family that I will treat them the same way.

    Being kept alive waiting for an advancement in medicine? If you mean using insulin if I became diabetic, well, of course. Being kept breathing and heart beating on a machine? Let me think - My grandmother died of kidney failure long ago, where a simple antibiotic would take care of it today. My uncle died young of an aneurysm that can today be easily repaired. You aren't suggesting that they should have been revived and "kept alive" until medicine caught up with them? Can anyone say cryogenics? Their lives in their times could no longer be supported, just as ours will be.

    Pro-life? Not at the cost of making technology our Goid. Not everything is to be forced to work, without grave insult to the first causes and end results.

  7. I can't think of anything more cruel - asking someone who loves me to help me die. Grief is so hard, often a point of breaking for some, why make the suffering and blame a loved one may feel even worse? Let me die? Absolutely. But help me die? No. Whether I strive to stay alive by any means possible, or die on my terms - it all just seems so selfish, like it's gotta be my way to the very end. I hope when the time comes, I can simply trust God.

  8. "it all just seems to selfish, like it's gotta be my way to the very end."

    Well put! Isn't that the truth of the natural human urge for control?


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