One of the best things about living in Oregon was knowing that if I needed to die - if I had some terrible, life-crushing, terminal disease - I could do it legally. Oregon is beautiful, green and luscious and all, but really, physician-assisted suicide was one of the best things about the state. It was a comfort to know that I could die with dignity, if need be. And I know of at least one 91-year old lady who agrees.
Sharlotte Hydorn, a San Diego grandmother, has been getting some serious heat for making "suicide kits" and selling them on online, calling it The Gladd Company. (She made over $100,000 last year.) For $60, a terminally ill person (she receives personal stories in order requests and makes a judgment call) can receive a plastic bag with some elastic around the bottom and a hole in it. Once the person finds his or her own tank of Helium, the job is done. I think the suicide kit is a little wonky, but I admire the woman for trying to help others. From her perspective:
"I'm doing what I can to improve the world. There's a lot of heartache and difficulty here. If heaven is so wonderful, you know you'd naturally want to go there, wouldn't you?"
Over 30 years ago, Sharlotte watched her husband die horribly from colon cancer, so she wanted to help others avoid the same fate. After enduring several operations, the cancer had spread to her husband's brain and doctors had to cut a hole in his stomach and attach a bag, which caught his body waste. As she told The Daily Beast:
“It was my duty, and I did it willingly, to empty that thing every three or four hours. One time I ran out of bags and went all over town looking for a pharmacy that sold them. Even years after my husband died, I would wake up and say, ‘I’ve got to go get those bags.’"
So, her intentions are seemingly admirable. Also, she's quite sassy. Channel 10 News in San Diego reports: "When asked what she thinks when people say she's going to hell, she said, "If people think I'm going to hell, well then they can go to hell!'"
Assisted suicide is not news (Dr. Kevorkian, anyone?) but we are hearing about this now due to the recent death of Nick Klonoski, who evidently suffered from depression and chronic pain. When the 29-year-old Oregon man took his life last December using one of Sharlotte's kits, his family protested the ethics of her business. Now an Oregon lawmaker has put forward a bill to make selling the kits a felony in the state.
“In a society where so many people suffer from depression and other mental-health disorders, this company has found their niche in the market by peddling death. This is analogous to putting a gun-vending machine next to a depression clinic. The Gladd company, so named as to avoid suspicion in case family members happen to sign for or come across the package, made $60 off my brother’s death.”
--Zach Klonoski, Nick's brother
Nevertheless, I am for assisted suicide for a number of reasons:
- I believe we should have control of our own bodies in every possible way.
- I believe there are some diseases that destroy the quality of life to such a point that it's not worth it anymore.
- I've had terminally ill friends and family members. I've seen the pain that terminal illness causes right up in my face. It's not pretty.
Currently, Oregon is the only state in the US that has legal physician-assisted suicide. Other countries around the world are also debating the topic. Sir Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard to many of us) recently joined the debate in the UK. Meanwhile, a Canadian family is working to change laws after they had to fly to Switzerland to help an ailing family member end her life.
And perhaps most fascinating of all, an elderly Australian couple actually recorded a message on YouTube to explain their actions before taking their own lives with medication they got on a specific trip to Mexico.
Really? They had to trek all the way to Mexico? There has to be a better way. Sure, anyone can jump off a cliff or take a cocktail of medications to end their own lives, so why should we help them? Well, some people can't walk to a cliff.
Truth is, some people are confined to their own bodies in such a way that they can't get out of bed or even go to the bathroom on their own. If I ever find myself in that situation, I want the choice. I want a kind doctor to hold my hand, tell me it will be OK, and gently give me safe passage to the afterlife. I want it to be on my terms, peaceful and painfree.
Disagree with me? I can take it. Opinions on this topic are affected by religious beliefs, personal experience, and political views. I'm open to hearing every opinion. Let's discuss!
Blondie writes at Tales From Clark Street.
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