My Father, Death with Dignity, and How We Choose

The Right To Die

Many beliefs have a back story. I’ve always supported death with dignity, physician assisted suicide, whatever you want to call it, in all of its various forms. When lobbying for such a bill you shouldn’t use the word “choice” because that may bring the abortion debate to mind, but it is about choice. And that’s because no two people are the same, and belief should not be imposed on others. At least not belief about how to die.
So what’s the story? There are several. When I was 21 and almost died after swine flu and lung surgery I came away with more and less fear. Less fear of death itself. More fear about being trapped between life and death—medically trapped, soul in a non-functioning body. When my 36 year old first husband Robert went into a coma and was brain dead but hooked to a respirator, a rabbi told me: don’t let this go on for too long. It’s dangerous for both the dying person and the people around him to be trapped in between worlds.
Someone else might have reacted differently to these situations. But they made me understand death is part of life, and coming to us all.
However, the real back story is about my dad. In his late 80s, having partially recovered from a major stroke, he had a series of small ones. He had trouble communicating, but was able to convey that he would no longer eat, drink, or take medication. He died about nine days later in hospice. This was a personal decision—not easy to put into practice, but not impossible either. He was a very strong willed man. I’ll never know if he’d planned this, or was just responding to the messages from his body, like a dying cat or dog who stops eating.
Was this good or bad? Good for him, terrifically hard on my mother who was in the early stages of dementia and living with him. Ambiguous for everyone. Would my dad have been happier with a doctor prescribed barbiturate? Would that have been quicker, less lonely, more supported? We’ll never know, as such things are still illegal in the state he lived in.
In any case, he didn’t have that choice. Maybe he would still have gone his own way—there was a certain resolve in that, and a kind of ease in letting nature take its course. But not everyone can do it.
What does it mean to want to die? I can’t understand that for others. Just for myself. I’d like to have some options.

In New Mexico, please support HB 171, End-of-Life Options Act. The bill would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults the ability to request his/her medical provider to provide a prescription for medication that will end life in a peaceful manner.It is in committee, and will hopefully soon be on the legislative floor.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

4 thoughts on “My Father, Death with Dignity, and How We Choose

  1. Bravo. I will check out that bill and write letters. Thank you so much once again for your wonderful work.

    Sent from my Verizon 4G LTE smartphone

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