I Am a Christian, a Conservative, a Republican… and I support the End of Life Option Act (HB780)
I am a conservative Christian, and a Republican, and I’m in favor of the N.C. End of Life Options Act. I’m conservative and a Republican because I strongly support decentralized government, a balanced federal budget, 2nd amendment rights, limitations on abortion and immigration, and other traditional values. I care so much about GOP politics that I was the mayor of one of the cities I lived in and have run for NC state representative in my present district. I voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election and am a supporting member of Charlotte women’s GOP clubs. I’m a Christian because I believe in the Bible and that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior – I tithe, have taught Sunday School, and actively participate in church activities.
I know that conservatives, Republicans and Christians aren’t thought to be in favor of medical aid in dying. So, please allow me to share with you some personal experiences, what I know from working 40 years as a registered nurse, and what I’ve learned through my Bible studies – all of which will help you to understand why I’m in favor of death with dignity.
I remember being beside my beloved mother’s deathbed a few weeks after she’d had major surgery and a system-wide infection. She was 75 years old and for several days she hadn’t felt like eating or drinking. She was 75 years old and had refused for many days to eat or drink anything (in that time, she had occasionally allowed me to give her a thimble full of water, which I had to pour into her mouth).
The day before she died, she asked me if she was dying and I said, “Yes, dear, if you don’t drink anything.” She then said a prayer out loud for God to help her, but she still couldn’t bring herself to ingest anything. She also told me, when I said it was an option, that she didn’t want a feeding tube put into her stomach.
I consulted with her doctor and my pastor and was told it would be alright for me to let her go. However, it was the most difficult decision I’d ever had to make. Her dying that way was a slow process and it was very unpleasant. Eventually, she lost consciousness and passed away.
I also remember a dog I’d had for over 12 years, whom I loved. He had developed a kidney disease and he, too, stopped eating and drinking. I’d been taking him to the vet for frequent abdominal dialysis, but knew this was very uncomfortable for him and that his condition was terminal.
So, rather than letting him die slowly, and with his doctor’s recommendation, I decided to have him put down. While I held him, I allowed the veterinarian to give him an injection that quickly put him to sleep and then stopped his heart. It was quick and painless. Afterwards, I realized that we show more mercy to our pets than we do to our fellow human beings!
As a registered nurse, I know that for end of life care palliative sedation in the last hours or days of a dying person’s life, is sometimes given. Millions of people every year endure much suffering at the time of their death and palliative care, including palliative sedation if needed, can provide peaceful and ethical relief for them.
Palliative sedation is an option of last resort for people whose symptoms cannot be controlled by any other means. It is not a form of euthanasia or assisted suicide, as the goal is to control symptoms – although it can shorten a person’s life, It is legal everywhere and has been used since the hospice care movement began in the 1960s.
Terminal sedation (another term for palliative sedation) is bringing the patient into deep sedation, usually by means of a continuous intravenous or subcutaneous infusion of a sedative, while forgoing artificial nutrition or hydration. Dr. Haider Warraich, a fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Duke University Medical Center and author of the book, Modern Death: How Medicine Changed the End of Life, wrote:
“In extreme cases, when even morphine isn’t enough, patients are given anesthesia to ease their deaths. The last time I administered what is called terminal sedation, another accepted strategy, was in the case of a patient with abdominal cancer whose intestines were perforated and for whom surgery was not an option. The patient, who had been writhing uncontrollably in pain, was finally comfortable.”
I also know that many times a physician must decide how much to prescribe of a strong medication that will probably relieve or greatly reduce a patient’s pain, but may very well slow or reduce their respirations. If that patient is terminally ill and under hospice care, no one finds fault with the physician if he decides to show mercy and relieve suffering, even if it shortens the dying process.
Something else that is commonly done is to not give a medication that is likely to prolong the dying process of someone who is terminally ill or very old, with dementia or another severe progressively degenerative disease.
I had a half-brother who at age 87 had become demented and was unable to care for himself. He developed a respiratory infection, for which his wife and daughter took him to the emergency department at a nearby hospital. While there, the ER doctor told them that he could give him an antibiotic that will cure the infection and enable him to return to his fully functioning self again.
His wife told me that she and his daughter looked at each other and told the doctor about how he was not able to function. They then decided not to give him the medicine and he was admitted into the hospital. He died there 2 or 3 days later, while surrounded by all of his family – who were kissing and hugging him and singing his favorite hymns to him.
I did not condemn his wife and daughter for not giving my half-brother treatment to keep him going in the condition he was in. In fact, I believe it was best for everyone that he passed the way he did – and I think he would have condoned it.
There’s something else I believe is important to mention. Most health care providers know that when there is less equipment or supplies (e.g. ICU beds or donor organs) than there are people who need it to live, hospitals have ethical panels – the sole purpose of which is to determine who gets them. Needless to say, the younger and healthier patients are given preference over the older, sicker ones.
We like to think that, when it comes to death and dying, everything is clear cut – it’s either right or wrong, black or white. However, in reality, there’s often a lot of grey area and one must choose between the lesser of two evils.
Regarding how God may view all this, I recall several Bible verses stating that God does not want us to sacrifice, but to be merciful: Matt. 9:13 and 12:7 “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”
Luke 6:36 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
James 2:13 “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Psalm 51:16 “You do not delight in sacrifice.
Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Micah 6:8 “Oh man . . . what does the LORD require of you . . . to love mercy.” Furthermore, we Christians are commanded not to judge others. It’s for God to decide in any given situation if something that might be considered a sin is justified. For example, my father, who was a minister, taught me that I should never lie – that it’s a sin. But he also told me “If you’re hiding Jews and a Nazi asks you if you’ve seen any – you may say no.”
There are instances in the Bible when actual suicide is not condemned, e.g. King Saul falling on his sword and Samson bringing down the temple on himself. I sincerely believe that God will not condemn a person who is suffering and in a terminal condition if he ingests something that will avoid needlessly prolonging his suffering.