Just a few weeks ago my beloved dog Sandy came to the end of a long and debilitating struggle with kidney failure. My wife and I did everything we could to prolong her life and make her happy and comfortable, but none of us can cheat death, and eventually it was upon us.
One of the most difficult decisions of my life came when I was forced to choose to euthanize my faithful companion of more than a decade. It was compounded by a feeling of guilt – not that I had acted too soon, but that perhaps I had waited too long out of grief and a sense of personal loss. I remember wishing for days that she could tell me if it was worth living, or if she merely wished she could die.
When we finally had our vet come to the house and put her to rest it was a traumatic experience for the family, yet the death was so quite, fast and peaceful that not only did it remove any feeling of lingering doubt that we had done the right thing, but it made me consider my own mortality and caused me to realize that ultimately I would rather be able to go like this, than be imprisoned in a body stricken with ailments, waiting for death to take me.
Well, this is the situation that Sir Edward Downes, and his wife of 54 years, Lady Joan, found themselves in. And luckily for them, they were able to make the decision to leave this world on their own terms. I only wish that we had the freedom to choose for our selves here in the USA.
According to the UK’s Guardian:
One of Britain’s most respected conductors, Sir Edward Downes, and his wife, Joan, a choreographer and TV producer, have died at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland, their family said today.
Downes, 85, was almost blind when he and his 74-year-old wife, who had become his full-time carer, travelled to Switzerland to end their lives, a family statement released to the BBC said.
Born in Birmingham, Downes had a long and distinguished career, including conducting the first performance at the Sydney Opera House. He worked with the BBC Philharmonic and the Royal Opera House in London.
The statement from the couple’s son and daughter, Caractacus and Boudicca, said they “died peacefully, and under circumstances of their own choosing”.
The statement continued: “After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems.”
The couple died at a clinic run by Dignitas, the Swiss organisation that operates a specialist euthanasia service.
In my opinion, the notion of a society making assisted suicide a crime among humans, while allowing the very practice with our animals is the absolutely pinnacle of hypocrisy. On one hand, we recognize that the suffering is so great that death is a better substitute – but we then imagine that it simply doesn’t apply to humans?
The problem we have is an over-estimation of the value of life in this case. We actually strip the individual of their own free will to act in their best interests, and instead impose a false concept that absolutely nothing could justify the request to die, nor the assistance given to the individual to do so.
The same people who would often pose religious or sociological arguments in opposition to assisted suicides would be willing to give their own lives in defense of their beliefs. A choice, I would remind you, of one’s own life or death.
As for me, I can imagine any number of scenarios where I would pray for death rather than suffering the indignity of living. I only hope that one day my country wakes up and decides to grant me the freedom to choose my own fate.