I lost my father to cancer many years ago. Yes, he, and our family suffered in the weeks leading up to his death. But, I cherish the opportunity we had of caring for him and saying our goodbyes.
My mother has been living in a nursing home for several years now. She is burdened with dementia, painful arthritis and very limited mobility. Every time I speak to her she comments (always more than once) how happy she is living there, and how lucky she is. This prompts a private chuckle, as I recall how adamantly she insisted that she would never agree to living in a nursing home, promising to ‘run away’ and to ‘behave so badly that they will throw me out’ should we go against her will in this. She has forgotten, proving that dementia can bring some blessings.
What strikes me is just how easy it would have been for me to manipulate her into requesting euthanasia. A ‘chance’ conversation long ago, repeated now and then:
“Did you hear about how so and so died? So tragic that they suffered…”
“Isn’t he good to his mother, looking after her like that, but he can’t go on holidays, his poor family.”
“Wouldn’t you hate being like so and so, having to be cared for.”
The seed of an idea sown long ago, nourished in casual conversation along the way, and allowed to germinate when the time comes – and she would adamantly believe that it was her idea. I wouldn’t need to prompt her, the request would be her own. Indeed, even if at the time I expressed opposition, she would say that it’s her choice, not mine. EASY.
So, so easy, and no legislated so called ‘safeguard’ could protect against it.
Lucky she lives in Tasmania, where the law currently protects her. But if things (and I) were different, instead of hoping that someday I will be able to afford to renovate my kitchen, that ‘new’ kitchen, purchased with my inheritance, would already be starting to look a little shabby. But we would have lost her. My children would not have the opportunity to grow into better people by caring for and about her.
She would never have come to end her days happy, and thankful for the care she receives. Instead she would have ended her life fearful of having to be cared for.
Legalising euthanasia may seem like a kindness in some situations, or even a practicality. But it opens the very real possibility of the ultimate elder abuse: premature death for the sake of an inheritance.
Some have pointed out that the old, the sick, the dying, have nothing to contribute but the burden of their care. This is so not true. It is the CARE of our most vulnerable, of those suffering, that teaches us our humanity. And ironically, it is the society that argues that those people would be better off dead – that needs them the most.