January 12, 2015, I wrote:
“For the animals we keep as pets there has always been the option of euthanasia available to them to allow a death with dignity. Because of ancient religious beliefs euthanasia has always been denied humans because the religious feel that death should occur in the time decided by a deity. In my opinion a death with dignity should be available to those humans who, terminal and in insufferable pain, wish to terminate themselves. This will not cheapen life, for what is life, without quality of life. I think it can be looked upon as an enhancement.”
A question has occurred to me: Should only physical pain be the consideration? Many people suffer mental agony unending… depression, despair. Perhaps overwhelming poverty, loneliness, are the engines producing this non-physical agony.
After all the psychiatric administrations have been made, the poverty alleviated, and loneliness dispelled, what if the emptiness remains… what if nothing can be done?
What if the person is irretrievably despondent? At what point is the hat or towel tossed in and the situation pronounced “terminal”. What if continued existence meant only a maintenance of despondency? Each new day dreaded. Each repetitive action despised. Even the pleasures of eating become a drag. Nothing alleviates the gloom even for a moment. Everything disappoints. A mind lying in ruins facing life stoically, accepting that the misery will never cease and happiness will never transpire. Hopelessness. Should there be no escape for such a person? Does this go beyond the concept of euthanasia and enter the realm of suicide?
What if the body continues without malady. What if for all appearances a person appears otherwise healthy, but the mind is diseased? Should we administer “happy” drugs wherein the person floats blithely about in a near dream state? Like many who dope themselves up with illicit drugs, is this not simply an escape from reality? What if it results in a crash worse than the original malady?
What does it mean when one proclaims that a person “is in their right mind”? This is a condition, I presume, where a person supposedly has the means to direct their own affairs. If you are despondent for years on end… does that become your “right mind”? Do you have the wherewithal to decide whether or not to sip that cup of hemlock? Society may judge your condition as one of illness, rather than your normal state… they may lock you up in cushioned comfort… for your own good, mind you. You can then lounge around in perfect comfort while your mental misery continues… day, after day, after day. You are, after all, out of sight and mind of the public eye… forgotten, sidelined, marginalized, but kept safe.
So you starve yourself to end the misery. A feeding tube is administered… humans insist you must endure the mental nightmare, or are they human? Humans will keep a brain-dead empty vessel alive with machinery for years. What makes you think they will let you die as long as your mind thinks, even in misery? All you ask is they let you go, all they answer is … well, what do they answer anyway? Do they think they are acting morally? Do they think they are being sympathetic and caring? If they were to allow you to expire do they think they will have failed to act in a human manner? Do they act empathetically or do they act sadistically?
What if you, whatever you are, are tired of it all? What if there seems no way to cure what ails you? What if you have already slit your wrists but some well-meaning human has pulled you back from the brink? What if all your thoughts are continually directed at finding a way to turn out the lights forever? A way from which there is no escape. Wouldn’t it be nicer if an avenue were provided? Wouldn’t it be more human to understand and allow someone irretrievably mentally fatigued to have a means by which to say goodbye with grace? A person who just can’t take it any more, just can’t take it any more. Why bar the door? Let them go.
If a body can be so diseased or otherwise in agony incurable, why could not a mind be thus? It too, is made of mortal material. Mortal material in proper orientation is what manifests our perception of existence. If it becomes mangled in its orientation, and cannot be untangled, should we demand it continue? Who are we to insist that someone so afflicted must continue? Administer the cure. Allow an egress. Hold the door as a gesture of your understanding. Extend empathy even here.