Do we have a right to die

Kevin Williams:  "Yes, you are right. I have bipolar disorder which 'runs in my family.' Along with this illness, suicide also 'runs in my family' as well. I have had severe episodes of depression resulting in long stays in psych wards. Such incidents not only caused me much suffering, it also caused my family a tremendous amount of pain as well. I want to be sure I have as many options to me as possible for the future. My psychiatrist informed me my illness will probably get worse as I get older and shock treatments may be the only effective treatment. This is what happened to my grandmother who had bipolar disorder and lived into her 90's with severe regular depressions and shock treatments with frequent stays in mental institutions. She eventually developed dementia - a horrible illness for those who go through the last stages of it. Judging from her experience, I have concluded I never want to live so long to develop dementia and put myself and my family through such pain. Ironically, just knowing the suggested method for ending my life has given me more confidence about facing the end and has given me a feeling of having more control over my life and death. This has resulted in my having more hope in facing end-of-life choices which has given me more incentive NOT to end my life.

"I lived and took care of my grandmother for seven years before we sadly had to put her in a nursing home against her wishes. Her life in a nursing home was horrific. Anyone who has ever visited a nursing home can testify how some of them are nothing short of a warehouse for tormented old people. Many of these people, if in their proper state of mind, would probably rather be dead. I know this was the case with my grandmother. People with dementia are slowly reduced to losing their minds, memories and personalities, becoming permanently bedridden and mumbling incoherently. I was horrified as I watched my beloved grandmother go through this process. 

"My grandmother lived in the nursing home for over a year before she died. Her death was not a pleasant one either. The bipolar disorder that tormented her all her life became worse with the dementia. She told me many times she wished she was dead. Ironically, she was a devout Christian all her life, taught Sunday School to children for over 30 years and led Sunday services for seniors at nursing homes as an adult. It seems to me the last years of her life of torture was incredibly unjust. In my mind, no amount of karma justified the torture she went through - especially because I suspect this injustice originated from the inhumane laws of society preventing people from voluntarily having the right to die with dignity. Even my grandfather (who I was also taking care of) - a devout Christian all his life - lost some of his faith in divine justice and the laws of society which prevents people from having the right to live and die as they choose to. As a postscript, when the time came for my grandfather to go into a nursing home, he absolutely loved it. However, he didn't suffer from a severe mental illness, thank God! He especially loved all the attention from the nurses.

"The last years of my grandmother's life was a living hell for us all - but mostly for her. Taking care of her also contributed to my developing a major depression which resulted in losing my high-paying job and spending time in the psych ward. And her unimaginable suffering was absolutely unnecessary in my view. My grandmother's father, also a manic depressive, shot and killed himself in front of her when she was in her teens. All her life she was well aware of what mental illness and suicide can do to people and families. 

"To this day I believe voluntarily helping her end her life would have been justifiably merciful. Throughout her time in the nursing home, we would pray God would take her away from it all. I even asked her physician if he could prescribe something to end it for her - something right-to-die organizations suggest doing. He replied to me in a holier than thou attitude, 'We don't do that kind of thing in this country.' To many physicians, death is the enemy. Death means defeat. To many of them (especially those with a 'God complex') death is to be avoided no matter what the cost. And I mean this literally. I read a recent study how 40% of all hospital costs go to extending the lives of people in their final years. In the olden days, death was something to be glorified as a "graduation" partly due to religious influences. Death was well understood by most people because most people died at home surrounded by family and friends. Sex was the taboo subject - not death. In today's society it has completely reversed. Sex is no longer a taboo subject - but death is."