Among the Baby Boomer generation, an informal poll indicates that “Death with Dignity” is a popular option. That doesn’t mean that all Boomers would elect to exercise this “end of life” alternative. There is, however, widespread agreement that it is nice to have the option.
As of today, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have Death with Dignity statutes. In Montana, physician-assisted euthanasia is legal by State Supreme Court ruling. The main opponents of giving this option to the public are religious groups, especially the Catholic Church. Yet in its brief history, states that embrace a terminal person’s right to choose the time of their deaths have not seen a rush for hemlock potions. And many who do acquire a prescription after satisfying strict prerequisites do not actually put the option into practice. It is just reassuring to have the choice.
The “right to die” issue splits friends and families. My golfing buddies are mostly for it. A broader group of acquaintances is split about 3-1 in favor of having the option. My wife, a lapsed Catholic, nevertheless opposes it and has told me that I’m on my own if that is my choice down the road.
Alternatively, hospice care has evolved to the point where a painless natural death in the arms of loved ones is often possible. So “death with dignity” is not wholly about dying. It is about how we choose to live the last months of our lives. There are still many illnesses and diseases that reach a point where the last months are vacant of any quality of life, involving pain, stressing out everyone and draining financial resources. Why endure that?
We Boomers are at the age where each of us has witnessed relatives and friends die lingering deaths. Some were peaceful; others were hell. To me, living a few months longer in a debilitated state is not how I wish to go or be remembered. Life is beautiful, until it isn’t. Most of us have long ago come to grips with the knowledge that one day death will knock on our door. We don’t fear death.
So we embrace the choice. We rejoice that now the decision on how we live the last months of our lives should we be diagnosed with a terminal illness is ours and ours alone. Most will still embrace hospice care. But for those whose are sentenced to painful or incapacitating deaths, we now have the choice to skip that “E Coupon” ride.
My Boomer friends and I fully expect that “death with dignity” laws will proliferate, especially since the American Medical Association has now adopted a neutral stance on the issue. And most Boomers say, “Thank God” for this enlightenment!” Knowing that we now have a choice makes the winter of our lives so much more enjoyable and meaningful.