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Old 07-05-2008, 02:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Would you opt for assisted suicide instead of move into a home for the aged?

Quote:
View: Assisted Suicide of Healthy 79-Year-Old Renews German Debate on Right to Die
Source: NYTimes
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Assisted Suicide of Healthy 79-Year-Old Renews German Debate on Right to Die
July 3, 2008
Assisted Suicide of Healthy 79-Year-Old Renews German Debate on Right to Die
By MARK LANDLER
FRANKFURT — When Roger Kusch helped Bettina Schardt kill herself at home on Saturday, the grim, carefully choreographed ritual was like that in many cases of assisted suicide, with one exception.

Ms. Schardt, 79, a retired X-ray technician from the Bavarian city of Würzburg, was neither sick nor dying. She simply did not want to move into a nursing home, and rather than face that prospect, she asked Mr. Kusch, a prominent German campaigner for assisted suicide, for a way out.

Her last words, after swallowing a deadly cocktail of the antimalaria drug chloroquine and the sedative diazepam, were “auf Wiedersehen,” Mr. Kusch recounted at a news conference on Monday.

It was hardly the last word on her case, however. Ms. Schardt’s suicide — and Mr. Kusch’s energetic publicizing of it — have set off a national furor over the limits on the right to die, in a country that has struggled with this issue more than most because of the Nazi’s euthanizing of at least 100,000 mentally disabled and incurably ill people.

“What Mr. Kusch did was particularly awful,” Beate Merk, the justice minister of Bavaria, said in an interview. “This woman had nothing wrong other than her fear. He didn’t offer her any other options.”

Germany’s conservative chancellor, Angela Merkel, declared on a German news channel on Wednesday, “I am absolutely against any form of assisted suicide, in whatever guise it comes.”

On Friday, Bavaria and four other German states will push for new laws to ban commercial ventures that help people kill themselves. Suicide itself is not a crime, nor is aiding a suicide, provided it does not cross the line into euthanasia, or mercy killing.

But many here do not want Germany to follow the example of Switzerland, where liberal laws on euthanasia have led to a bustling trade in assisted suicide. In the last decade, nearly 500 Germans have crossed the border to end their lives with the help of a Swiss group that facilitates suicides.

“We want to make it illegal for people here to offer ‘suicide by reservation,’ ” Ms. Merk said. “That is inhumane.”

By helping Ms. Schardt end her life, and then broadcasting the result, Mr. Kusch has, in effect, hung out a shingle. A former senior government official from Hamburg, Mr. Kusch, 53, said he would help other people like her who decide of their own free will to commit suicide.

“My offer, since last Saturday, is to allow people to die in their own beds,” he said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “That is the wish of most people, and now it is possible in Germany.”

With his penchant for brazen publicity, Mr. Kusch recalls Jack Kevorkian, the euthanasia crusader in Michigan who all but dared the authorities to stop his assisted suicides, and ended up in prison. But Mr. Kusch, who is trained as a lawyer, is careful not to cross the legal line.

In Ms. Schardt’s case, he counseled her about how to commit suicide, but did not provide or administer the drugs. He left the room after she drank the poisonous brew and returned three hours later to find her dead on her bed. He videotaped the entire process as proof that he was not an active participant.

Prosecutors have looked into the case, but it does not appear that Mr. Kusch is in legal jeopardy.

Mr. Kusch also videotaped five hours of interviews with Ms. Schardt, in which she discussed her fears and why she wanted to die. He showed excerpts at the news conference, causing an outcry. “A 10-minute video says more than if I had talked for two hours,” he said.

While Ms. Schardt was not suffering from a life-threatening disease, or in acute pain, her life was hardly pleasant, Mr. Kusch said. She had trouble moving around her apartment, where she lived alone. Having never married, she had no family. She also had few friends, and rarely ventured out.

In such circumstances, a nursing home seemed likely to be the next stop. And for Ms. Schardt, who Mr. Kusch said feared strangers and had a low tolerance for those less clever than she was, that was an unbearable prospect.

“When she contacted me by e-mail on April 8, she had already decided to commit suicide,” Mr. Kusch said, noting that she had also been in touch with Dignitas, the Swiss group that aids suicides.

In a goodbye letter to Mr. Kusch, posted on his Web site, Ms. Schardt thanked him, saying that if her death helped his battle it would fulfill her goal to have “the freedom to die in dignity.”

To some champions of assisted suicide, Germany’s laws do not allow for enough dignity. Ludwig A. Minelli, a former journalist who runs Dignitas, noted that those assisting in a suicide had to leave the person to die alone or risk being prosecuted. In Switzerland, he said, “the helping person, as well as family members or friends, could stay with the person who has decided to leave.”

The larger lesson of Ms. Schardt’s solitary death may have to do with the way Germany treats its old.

“The fear of nursing homes among elderly Germans is far greater than the fear of terrorism or the fear of losing your job,” said Eugen Brysch, the director of the German Hospice Foundation. “Germany must confront this fear, because fear, as we have seen, is a terrible adviser.”
When I was a kid, I remember thinking that I only wanted to live until I was 65 because anything past that was too old. Now that I'm getting into my older years, I realize that 65 isn't the magic number. I have come to the realization that the idea of being put in a home is the real quality that I was thinking of as a kid.

I don't want to be in a home based on what I saw as a kid and what I've experienced recently visiting Skogafoss' grandmother and my own grandmothers paternal and maternal.

This article has been open on my desktop for the past day or so and I have been reading it very carefully and pondering just how and why I don't want to live my years out in a home for the aged.

I live in a Naturally Occuring Retirement Community (NORC) or "aging in place" where people live and stay in their homes. The reality of this is that at some point in time it is too difficult or too expensive to live on your own in the older years.

What do you think about your future of being older and needing to be cared for?
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Old 07-05-2008, 02:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I think "going into a home" isn't the real measure, for me. At one point my grandparents were in an assisted-living facility that was basically an apartment building, but with people who come round twice a day to clean, make sure medical needs are taken care of, cook if necessary... The people who lived there loved it. It was like a residential social club. They all dressed for dinner--you'd see them down in the "restaurant" (lunch and dinner were included with the price of living there, but it was table service with nice tablecloths and everything), all done up in dresses and bow ties, having a great old time.

As their health continued to go downhill, they moved into a facility that was much more hospital-oriented. By the end, my grandfather's slowly filling lungs were drowning him to death in a hospital bed while my grandmother sat in the chair staring into space. They hadn't seen each other in years, and didn't even know they hadn't. Most definitely NOT how I want to end up.

I'd very much prefer to have a legal document prepared in advance that authorizes a painless death when I reach the point that a doctor can certify me non compos mentis, or when I request it every day for, say, a month. I want to set it up so it's available to me as a conscious choice, but I want to have to mean business about it.
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Old 07-05-2008, 02:47 PM   #3 (permalink)
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seems like a pretty clear murder case to me.
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Old 07-05-2008, 02:50 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I can't shake the feeling that you're trying to communicate something in the thread title, like subtext:
"Would you kill opt for assisted suicide instead of move into a home for the aged?"

If I'm so far gone that I can't kill myself, I don't see the point in staying alive and kicking... but there may be something I'm overlooking. In other words, I dunno about me personally. Still, people should have the right to kill themselves.
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Old 07-05-2008, 02:50 PM   #5 (permalink)
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This subject reaches deeply into ones faith and beliefs. What are the real "quality of life" issues that will effect this sort of decision? They have to be unique to each individual.

I can't imagine, at this stage of my life, any circumstances that would make me not wish to see another day's arrival. But I am in good health, have plenty of stimulation, and still have dreams I am chasing.

What would happen if I were stricken with a debilitating health issue? What if a horrible tragedy deprived me of my most precious loved ones? If my life were reduced to merely existing through my days, would I end up feeling like Ms. Schardt? Even considering these things stops my brain, and I can only sit and shake my head.

In response to the posed question, I can only raise more questions. Who will be my caretaker? What are my living conditions? How active is my life? If some stranger is coming to spoon feed me and clean up my bed pan, that just might break my spirit. If family and friends rally 'round like we have for my mother, age 93, I may opt to try to live forever.
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Old 07-05-2008, 02:54 PM   #6 (permalink)
 
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My mom and I have pact....legalities be damned.

I was twelve and a half years old when my father was in a plane crash.
It was a small plane , they were flying a shipment of rivets to Tupelo
MI..and encountered rough weather.
something obviously went wrong as they attempted to bring the plane
down on instruments only.

Landing more then a mile from the runway..the pilot was killed instantly.

My father was in a coma for two years...and has never regained
enough brain function to even recognize most of his family from day to day.

I remember distinct conversations around the dinner table..before this
happened..he would never have wanted to continue on this way...

Yet he has..He was 36 at the time of the crash...he is now 72..
I mourned the passing of my father many years ago...and when
his physical shell eventually gives out I will mourn again.
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Old 07-05-2008, 03:32 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Willravel
I can't shake the feeling that you're trying to communicate something in the thread title, like subtext:
"Would you kill opt for assisted suicide instead of move into a home for the aged?"

If I'm so far gone that I can't kill myself, I don't see the point in staying alive and kicking... but there may be something I'm overlooking. In other words, I dunno about me personally. Still, people should have the right to kill themselves.
Thanks, actually the original thread title was kill yourself instead of opt for assisted suicide.
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Old 07-05-2008, 03:46 PM   #8 (permalink)
follower of the child's crusade?
 
In answer to that question - if I was physically able to kill myself and it was my desire to die, I would not ask another to do the job because I was emotionally unable to do it.

But I look at this the other way round. There ARE genuine mercy killings of course, and these are normally involving people who are very close. My opinion of these "professionals" of assisted suicide is that they are serial killers.

No one needs professional help to know how to take poison or do any of the other things that will kill you.

There are cases when someone loses the power to control their own fate and their quality of life is shot, and a loved one takes an action based on a prior agreement. I am not speaking about cases like this, where ending the suffering of an individual is humane.

I am talking about people who seek out the lost and scared and the sickly, people who are strangers to them, and "help them die" - talk them into it and egg them on for the sexual thrlll it gives them to play God.
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Old 07-05-2008, 04:01 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cynthetiq
Thanks, actually the original thread title was kill yourself instead of opt for assisted suicide.
Yeah, I figured.
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Old 07-05-2008, 04:03 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I have cell sites that sit on the roof of nursing homes, and those sites are the most depressing creepiest places to go to. You can just feel death hanging in the air like some kind of foul stench.

A place like that is not where I want to spend my final days. I'd rather keep a pitcher of that Jonestown kool-aid in the fridge instead.
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Old 07-05-2008, 04:23 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grumpyolddude
I can't imagine, at this stage of my life, any circumstances that would make me not wish to see another day's arrival.
You know, I hear you on this. And from what I've seen, we're wired for survival no matter the circumstances.

A couple weeks before my grandfather died, my dad had a conversation with him that basically went, "Look, Dad, we can treat the pneumonia that's happening as a side-effect of the Parkinsons and the feeding tube, and we can probably knock it down or out and buy you some more time. But the doctors say that pneumonia is a very peaceful, easy way to go. They say people just go peacefully in their sleep. So the question is, do you want us to hold off on the treatment?"

My grandfather answered in a husky, raspy, half-whispered voice: "No way."
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Old 07-05-2008, 04:54 PM   #12 (permalink)
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what a terribly hard decision.

i just erased a whole paragraph because im not quite sure how i feel. i find myself entering all these different mental scenarios and getting different results with each one. i try to take into consideration that this person wanted to die and let this dr kill them, but at the same time im still not quite sure if its right or not. Maybe if she wanted to go out she should have done it on her own. but like strange said, maybe she just didnt have the gumption to do it on her own.

anyway, I wouldnt call it murder. To me murder is more like "i didnt want to die but you killed me anyway, bastard." but would i call it right? i..dont..know.

...man, this is a brain melter.
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Old 07-05-2008, 05:40 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuasiMondo
...nursing homes... the most depressing creepiest places to go to. You can just feel death hanging in the air like some kind of foul stench.
I have quite a different feeling regarding these places.

When I was a child, my grandmother was quite lost to dimentia. My mother would take me often to visit the nursing home where she stayed. Twice a week, or more. We would sit in the courtyard, surrounded by roses. Grandma wasn't conversant through most of it - she'd sit there in her chair smiling, staring off into space while my mom and aunt chit-chatted and exchanged photographs of the kids. I loved that rose garden. I loved the nursing home. I was quite young and jubilant every time I got to see grandma. The staff smiled when they saw me coming, said I was a ray of sunshine and wished kids would come more often. Eventually her heath progressed to the point where she was bed-ridden. She no longer smiled the whole time we were there. I had to stand right in front of her face when I'd visit, she'd smile, then stare off again. I didn't quite understand when she couldn't go outside anymore, but I'd sit at the foot of her bed and color with her special colored pencils that she kept for me in her closet. Eventually she was gone. Even after her death, we would go regularly to that home to visit with g-ma's friends, help serve dinner, or sing and dance for their entertainment. We stopped going when the staff changed and they were no longer friendly to our presence.

I cared for the other grandmother while attending university. My cousin was there too, we'd trade off bathing her and cooking her meals. She was quite vibrant up until her death. Nothing really stopped her, she just stopped breathing. Didn't want assistance with breathing, so that was that. I spoke with her on the telephone the morning before she passed. Her death affected me so much. I was crushed, it seemed to come out of the blue. There was no extended period of intense care, no foul stench, no listless shriveled face or thinning body. It didn't seem to compute.

Death is a process. I won't mess with mine.
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Old 07-05-2008, 06:01 PM   #14 (permalink)
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To my thinking there are two issues here:

1) health - there is a big difference between being healthy and old and unhealthy and old

2) the quality of the nursing home - my wife worked summers in a number of assisted care facilities and some of them were little more than racks to hold the dying. Others were like apartments with some added care. There is a large range inbetween.
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Old 07-05-2008, 06:08 PM   #15 (permalink)
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It would depend on the level of care I would need to receive. I wouldn't be opposed to living in a retirement community; my grandfather lived in a really nice one for a long time and it definitely added a lot to his quality of life. The community had different tiers of care available for its residents; my grandpa lived in a condo in the community where he had a housecleaner come in twice a week and had a dining room to eat in if he so wished, as well as other amenities: social programming, a community garden, expansive grounds with walking trails, and other things besides. My grandmother had Alzheimers and when she got so bad he was unable to care for her, she moved up a tier into the nursing home, and then finally into hospice at the end of her life. Similarly, when my grandfather got sick, he was sick enough that he skipped the nursing home and went straight into the hospice wing.

If I were at the point that I needed daily nursing, or had a disease like Alzheimer's, I would probably opt for euthanasia. But keep in mind I live in a state where it's legal, and half of my family comes from a culture where it's legal (the Netherlands)--in fact, I have a cousin who had terminal cancer and opted for euthanasia so that he could say goodbye on his own terms. I can understand that.
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Old 07-05-2008, 06:21 PM   #16 (permalink)
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While not opposing the 'right' to die. I'm intending to hang around for as long as I can.

Having said that - I've seen very elderly relatives, who seemed quite ready to go, when that time came. It's not something that I like to turn over too often in my mind.

In many ways, I think that the main struggle is for those elders to be able to participate in the lives of the rest of us (who are working "9-5"). Even now, I imagine that for my parents, the days fly by and they don't get to see us kids. It scares me to think how this ends up.

Time to take some leave off work I think !!
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Old 07-05-2008, 08:00 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I could never commit suicide. I'm too damn stubborn. I'll fight on through illness and whatever else until my last breath.
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Old 07-06-2008, 01:29 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Its your life, if ought to be your death as well...

While I imagine something happens at the time of death, I don't makes plans based on this belief (IE, like any scientist that can't prove or explain it, I won't rely on the concept).
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Old 07-06-2008, 02:59 AM   #19 (permalink)
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If I'm in pain or misery, or the facility is filthy and the food sucks, I'd probably enjoy the right to kill myself.

On the other hand, if I'm not always thereand happy in my foggy world, hey... No harm done.
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Old 07-06-2008, 10:25 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ring
My mom and I have pact....legalities be damned.

I was twelve and a half years old when my father was in a plane crash.
It was a small plane , they were flying a shipment of rivets to Tupelo
MI..and encountered rough weather.
something obviously went wrong as they attempted to bring the plane
down on instruments only.

Landing more then a mile from the runway..the pilot was killed instantly.

My father was in a coma for two years...and has never regained
enough brain function to even recognize most of his family from day to day.

I remember distinct conversations around the dinner table..before this
happened..he would never have wanted to continue on this way...

Yet he has..He was 36 at the time of the crash...he is now 72..
I mourned the passing of my father many years ago...and when
his physical shell eventually gives out I will mourn again.
I have to say your story is very moving. I am sorry for your pain...I cannot imagine.

I have to say that I feel that people should be allowed some dignity in their final moments.

I'm not sure about assisted death mainly because I know there would be people who would manipulate this "permission" in wrongful ways. But there is no such thing as bad knowledge...only people with intentions, well-meaning or harmful. But in order to achieve the good things, the bad things have to be let in to some extent as well - there is always a catch.

For me, I would want to be able to die if I reached a point where I could not think or decide or react for myself. I'd be happy to be in a home with decent conditions as long as I felt able to still do a few small things to give me some joy. I see no reason to end life when it is so short already...unless there is unnecessary pain and suffering.

My grandmother died recently and her death was of the most drawn out and awful I have seen...I felt so sad for her, it was like she was gone already. The worst was when she had small lucid moments when we could tell she was still in there...trying to live. And she was a most wonderful person...truly. It seemed so wrong, all that pain...and still does.
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Old 07-08-2008, 07:05 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nimetic
While not opposing the 'right' to die. I'm intending to hang around for as long as I can.
This thread is full of our young and middle-aged takes on this. Older folks see it differently.
I remember my Grandfather saying that when he was a young man, he couldn't imagine why anyone would even want to live to be eighty years old. But when you are seventy-nine, it looks completely different.

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Old 07-10-2008, 08:48 AM   #22 (permalink)
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My opinions on this will probably change as i grow older, but as for now, I would take a home over assissted suicide. The only way i would want to end my life would be if I was in a lot of pain, and had little quality of life, and there was no help for me. Basically, if I'm no longer living, but still not dead yet, I'd choose to end it.
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Old 07-12-2008, 01:04 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lindy
... Older folks see it differently.
That's a sweeping statement. You might change that to "everyone sees it differently." My father wishes he was dead and takes every opportunity to prove it. He's not quite 80.
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Old 07-12-2008, 07:41 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onesnowyowl
It would depend on the level of care I would need to receive. I wouldn't be opposed to living in a retirement community; my grandfather lived in a really nice one for a long time and it definitely added a lot to his quality of life. The community had different tiers of care available for its residents; my grandpa lived in a condo in the community where he had a housecleaner come in twice a week and had a dining room to eat in if he so wished, as well as other amenities: social programming, a community garden, expansive grounds with walking trails, and other things besides. My grandmother had Alzheimers and when she got so bad he was unable to care for her, she moved up a tier into the nursing home, and then finally into hospice at the end of her life. Similarly, when my grandfather got sick, he was sick enough that he skipped the nursing home and went straight into the hospice wing.

If I were at the point that I needed daily nursing, or had a disease like Alzheimer's, I would probably opt for euthanasia. But keep in mind I live in a state where it's legal, and half of my family comes from a culture where it's legal (the Netherlands)--in fact, I have a cousin who had terminal cancer and opted for euthanasia so that he could say goodbye on his own terms. I can understand that.
I think you hit the nail on the head. It's all about quality of life for me. And I don't think government has a right to legislate something so personal and intimate.

And I guess if I ever go that route they can try me and stick me in jail!
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Old 07-19-2008, 06:55 AM   #25 (permalink)
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yes, yes and yes

I work in a nursing home, I specifically work in palliative care. I would never want to be in the situation thatI see so many of my patients in. If I get to the point where I can't recognise my loved ones that's enough for me.

I can handle the idea of physical pain, I can deal with that. What I fear is loosing my mind, my hearing and my sight.

Despite the fact that euthanasia is illegal here I would arrange something rather then live on in that situation.
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Old 07-19-2008, 10:38 AM   #26 (permalink)
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To be perfectly honest, if I am no longer able to climb out of bed on my own two feet, I would rather be carried out in a body bag. I am an explorer at heart, and to be confined so severely due to health reasons would be a constant battering ram against my spirit and the will to remain alive. Likewise, if my senses were stripped and I had nothing remaining besides my mind, I would also wish to end it.

I believe that everyone should possess a right to their own life and death, regardless of the reason given by them. I am also of the belief that these individuals should be free to seek out and receive assistance without the heavy hand of government preventing it. Life becomes no more than a prison when you lose your desire to be alive. For those who attempt it and fail, their failure should be the only punishment dealt, not any sort of further imprisonment. The assistant should also be recognized as innocent in the eyes of the law.
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Old 07-19-2008, 11:44 AM   #27 (permalink)
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About 13 years ago I watched as my aunt died from Lou Gehrig's disease, she went from being happy and able to move around to bed ridden and unable to eat or talk in under 2 months, it was the hardest thing I've ever watched happen in my life. She could do nothing for herself, the disease ate away at her muscles, her brain, everything, I watched her suffer and get pumped full of morphine just so they could make her comfortable in her last weeks and days on earth, it was no way for anyone to live, I felt terrible for her, and still do knowing that the last days of her life were filled with pain.

Ever since then I've always said that should I be afflicted with such a disease I will take my own life, regardless of laws, or the way society looks at these sort of things, I couldn't put my family through watching something like that.

As for being put in an old age home, if I can't do things for myself, I don't see much point in living.
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Old 07-19-2008, 01:31 PM   #28 (permalink)
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I can't possibly answer the OP question at this stage in my life.

I have met many elderly, interesting, vibrant people in "homes for the aged". I have also had family that were "gone" far before they died. They no longer recognized family and friends. They no longer remembered much of their lives. If I am in that state, I'm already gone. Death or life is inconsequential.
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Old 07-22-2008, 07:52 AM   #29 (permalink)
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I've thought a lot about this, especially after watching ratbastid's grandparents linger long past the departure of their mental faculties.

I think when I'm ready to die, I'm going to wander off into the woods to die of exposure. I'll wait till early winter. Hypothermia seems like a nice, peaceful way to go. Just drift off to sleep...

I think we are entirely too focused on extending life at all costs. People should be treated like adults and allowed to stay or go as they wish. Clinging tenaciously to the buttocks of life (apologies to Ren and Stimpy) seems like an undignified way to spend one's time.

Having watched my brother die, I thought a lot about what his life would have been like if he'd lived. He had a head injury...would he have been the same? Would he have required constant care? Would he have hated it? It seems to me there are things that are much worse than death.
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Old 07-22-2008, 08:10 AM   #30 (permalink)
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Yes, if I were getting to the point where I was becoming senile, unable to recognize loved ones (or myself), losing senses or something else completely life altering, I would opt for assisted suicide. I will also be asking to have the plug pulled on me if I am ever in a vegetative state.
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Old 07-22-2008, 12:34 PM   #31 (permalink)
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I'm not sure whether or not I would opt for assisted suicide, I guess I would have to assess the overall situation. I'm pretty sure that if I was in a situation comparable to Terri Schaivo's situation I would not want a feeding tube, or if I was in a situation where I had zero quality of life, but that's a much worse case than the OP. I'm not sure exactly where I would draw the line between wanting assisted suicide and not wanting assisted suicide, but I do think that it should be legal.
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Old 07-28-2008, 10:12 AM   #32 (permalink)
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I guess it all depends on many factors and really what kind of a life you're possibly going to be facing. The prospect of going into a home does appeal to me on any level.
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