Wednesday, July 15, 2009

date with death

Do you have €4,000 saved up? That's the equivalent of $6,314.88 CAD, according to this morning. If so, you have just enough, along with the cost of airfare to Switzerland (one way, of course, not return), for a date with Death. Legally.

In the news today an elderly British couple, Sir Edward and Joan Downes, are either applauded or condemned, depending on the article you read, for admitting themselves to notorious Swiss suicide clinic, Dignitas. In Switzerland, as well as Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Thailand, and the states of Oregon and Washington, active euthenasia is a legal practice.

Sir Edward was a maestro had lost most of his eyesight and was beginning to experience hearing loss as well. This, in combination with his wife's terminal cancer diagnosis, made them decide to terminate their lives, together, at Dignitas.

Last year, a program called Sky Real Lives reported on another assisted suicide, this one of Craig Ewert, at Dignitas and aired it on television (be warned) as part of a documentary called Right to Die.

"After you drink this, you're going to die," the Dignitas representative (consultant? doctor? euthanizer? is that a word?) states simply.

Craig and his wife, Mary, embrace before he takes the lethal drink.
"I love you," she whispers.
"I love you, sweetheart. So much."

Then, to Beethoven's 9th symphony, Craig dies.

Euthanasia has perplexed me for as long as I can remember being aware of it. Additionally, I've discovered that the subject is associated with a host of other equally disturbing issues. Why, in states that oppose euthanasia, do they support capital punishment? Who is profiting from the suicides? €4,000 a death is a fairly significant fee... Dignitas made €8,000 off of the Downes'. Conversely, will governments begin to promote euthanasia in order to offset the demand for health and old age care since seniors are the world's fastest growing demographic?

In an interview before his assisted suicide, Craig Ewert expresses his rationale:
"If I go through with it, I die, as I must at some point. If I don't go through with it, my choice is essentially to suffer and to inflict suffering on my family. And then die. Possibly in a way that is considerably more stressful and painful than this way."
Since the enemy comes only in order to kill and steal and destroy, it should be no surprise that Craig felt he had little incentive to live before he decided to die. The situation was to him so dire that suicide was the preferred solution. Where is the life he was meant to have and enjoy, the life that was his in abundance and to the full, the life that overflows? The death of his hope, his joy, his peace, his comfort and his security was stolen long before before Dignitas offered him a way out.

I wonder what would have happened if someone had been there to introduce him to life.

I wonder how many times we pay a hefty fee to euthanize parts of our hearts, our dreams, our goals, our hopes, and our relationships because it's preferred to carrying on in a state of half- or barely-living.

Where are we dating Death?


mark said...

Interesting post, Sarah.
I've always been very confused by the pro-life brigade in places where some of their beliefs and practices seem to be more pro-death than anything.

I love your take on how we euthanise our hearts. Food for thought, eh?

Lois said...

Interesting... I've been thinking similar thoughts ... about Gabor Mate's book "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts" where he talks about addictions and what goes on in the brain... and he says when addictive people take a drug the reason they are addicted is because it feels like a "warm hug"... they aren't having/haven't felt that sensation in life and the high brings comfort to them... most people now have something they use that isn't healthy to bring them comfort... to be healthy you need the comfort of a warm hug... it is supposed to be something built into our systems in childhood but this is missing... if there isn't enough relaxing joy in life what would make you want to go on any longer than you have to, especially when life certainly gets harder...