The Death with Dignity Act is among the more controversial topics related to patient care, and after readings several articles, I have thought about how I would feel if a loved one was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and wanted to end their life with the help of a doctor.
Growing up, my father always told me, “Susie I don’t ever want to acquire a bunch of medical issues that would hinder my quality of life.”
My grandmother broke her hip, at age 96, and my father and his siblings decided to put her in a nursing home, as she needed constant care. The broken hip was hard for her to live with, but ultimately, it was the nursing home that killed her spirit, and she passed away a few months later. Two of my aunts, my father’s older sisters, died from horrible illnesses and suffered immensely during the last months of their lives.
Needless to say, my dad was terrified of becoming sick; that was apparent. And his lifestyle was one that displayed a ton of energy. He was of those people who was known, not only for his integrity, but also for his ‘zest for life’ – one which I had always admired, and wish I had, myself.
In October of 2000, my father was hit and killed by a car, while crossing a street in Chicago. He died on impact. At the time, I only saw the obvious; I would never be able to see his face, or feel his arms around me, as I often did, when he’d give me a hug on my way out the door as I’d head back to the main campus at Penn State University. Now, more than 10 years later, I see that his death might just have been a blessing. He felt no pain, according to medical staff, because the impact killed him instantly. It is the way he would have wanted to die.
But what if he had suffered injuries that significantly altered his life? If physician-assisted suicide was an option back then, I know today, I would have absolutely supported his decision. I also would have signed any necessary documents required by providers of physician services to see his wish fulfilled. In my opinion, it is a person’s right to die with a little bit of dignity.