Julie Reaney: All of us deserve choices in end-of-life decisions
This commentary is a follow-up on both of the “Other Voices” articles by Carolyn Peterson, executive director of Hospice of the Foothills on Feb. 3 titled, “Can 1.5 million people a year be so wrong?” and Greg Archibald’s response as a 77-year-old individual on the Feb. 10 titled, “4.8 million people deserve the discussion.
Coincidentally, I too am a 77 year old with yet another slant on the need for individual choice. In this case, mostly, but not exclusively, about the very personal subject of how we die when there is the opportunity to choose.
I know of no other nonprofit service in our country that receives as much well-deserved support, appreciation and adulation from the population as a whole, as does Hospice; whether it be provided in-home or in a home-like facility. However, even the title of Ms. Peterson’s article does not really address the subject of dying in a comprehensive manner.
Obviously, those 1.5 million Americans that have used hospice care annually made the “right” choice for themselves. That doesn’t make the others “wrong.” She is strongly against physician assisted death by contrast. My response? Not everyone wants to prolong their lives; especially when they can no longer bear living. Many may choose in-home hospice, but not out of their homes, no matter how soothing the atmosphere. For those that would choose a hospice facility, cost is often a barrier due to the high staff to patient ratio and the fact that Medicare has never sufficiently been able to cover costs.
Mr. Archibald, on the other hand, is supportive of a recently introduced bill in California, the “End of Life Option Act”, SB-128. Not because he would use it, but because he feels that individuals should have choices available to them as they go toward their final choice in life. He lists many valuable Internet resources two of which are “Compassion and Choices”, “Death with Dignity” to help inform, rather than frighten people.
My take on this very emotional subject, will be viewed by many as outrageous — because I don’t base it on religion, fear, guilt or the expected norm. What I do believe in is “until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes” who is finding life more than they can bear, do not judge their choices. Just ensure they have all of them. Hopefully, family and friends will support them and put their own grief, guilt or religious beliefs to one side.
Looking at this from a stark point of view, we did not choose to enter this world. We should be able to choose how and when we leave it. And yet the choice of taking one’s own life is against the law.
It seems to me that government and extremist groups increasingly take away those choices that should be strictly personal for all of us. I particularly include in that, a woman’s right to decide what she will or will not have done to her body. If people who are so against that choice, largely due to religious belief, could have seen up close and personal as I did, what women who were raped, taken advantage of or knew they were not equipped to raise a child, went through prior to Roe v. Wade it would sicken and repulse them.
I’m also not sure how sexual preferences/marriages became a government concern, let alone one greater than domestic, child and/or elder abuse and human trafficking or the world-wide disfiguring, torturing and/or exiling of millions of women.
This brings me full circle. As an individual or group, “don’t always believe in what you believe in.” Let’s give each other some space, informed choices and compassion. You may be walking in their shoes some day.
Julie Reaney lives in Alta Sierra.
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