One of the more confounding reasons cited by opponents of MAID is the notion, that the timeline called for under the statutory enactments that two doctors believe the applicant is likely to pass within six months due to a terminal condition, is at best an unreliable, if not impossible guesstimate. However, the statistics belie that incredulity, as the overwhelming number of individuals who are given six months by the best estimates of modern medicine do in fact unfortunately die more or less as predicted.
However, MAID is not just a recourse for those who do not want to spend half a year suffering, agonizing, bedridden, and deprived of life’s blessings. Sometimes, it is the difference between a nightmarish last few days or hours and a peaceful, serene and even uplifting end.
Two recent articles highlight this notion. In a recent New York Times op-ed by Karen Brown dated Jan 6, 2018 chronicling the sufferings of her father at the very end when hospice, otherwise such a stellar and indispensable addition to the End of Life options, failed leaving her in a mad scramble to get adequate pain medication. We all need a fail-safe mechanism and having the ability to control one’s final destiny can indeed be the only thing separating us from a gentle passing or a horror show of terminal agony. Who would want the last memories one leaves with loved ones to be of utter agony and screams. Who would want their loved one to pass under such horrid circumstances.
Another recent example of when MAID can provide solace over a mere few days instead of months was brought to light by the tragic story of a 6-year old boy scratched by a rabid bat who was misdiagnosed until the rabies had spread into his system irreversibly and of course fatally. If a human contracts the rabies virus and is not promptly treated, the disease will inevitably result in an excruciating death. While MAID, where allowed by state law, is only accessible to adults, one can well imagine any number of situations where a human has but a few days at best to live and they will be nothing but delirium, agony and hell on earth. For the patient and his/her family, MAID is a means to avoid an undesirable end in favor of a chance to pass peacefully.
We all know death is part of the human condition. And we all know we all have a limited lease on life. There will be times when death is a “maybe” in the near future, as when we go in for life-threatening surgery. There will be times when death is more likely than not, when a soldier undertake a “suicide” mission at war. And there are times when death is a near imminent certainty. For those last few instances, MAID is a far better End of Life option than suffering pointlessly.
Ed Tiryakian, J.D., MBA, founded Dying Right NC in 2015 and is its Executive Director. He previously worked in international banking in Asia before retiring to his native NC.He believes End of Life issues are one of society’s most pressing challenges as we all live longer and the medicalization of the dying process continues to conflict with the individual’s right to choose his or her end.