A beautifully written piece by John Lambert.
"He's getting so
old now. He can't make up the stairs."
"He hasn't touched his dinner for days now."
"Look how slowly he walks. He must be in pain."
"He bumps into things. He's nearly blind,"
No, they aren't talking about the family pet. They're talking about Grandad. Granddad - with all the wealth of years of experience has to be put to sleep. What they might have added was it causes us so much pain to see him this way. We want to remember him when he was young, healthy and strong. I remember when he used to carry me upstairs on his shoulder. Now, he can hardly climb those stairs himself. He can't stay at home any more. There's no one to look after him. He would be better off in hospital, but after work I'm too tired to go and see him. What do we talk about? His mind wanders to much now. Does he really know what's going on around him? So the arguments run.
When my wife was diagnosed with inoperable cancer 14 years ago, it was like a death sentence. She had various combinations of chemotherapeutic drugs which showed gradual remission at first. Then the cancer cells would start multiplying again. She was in and out of hospital. At home I would do what I could to make her comfortable, but it was only in hospital that she could find ease from the pain by injections of morphine. Never once did anyone on the medical staff suggest euthanasia. If they had, they would have been introduced speedily to the toe of my boot.
Gradually, however, her time at home grew less, but my time with her became longer. During those long hours when I sat silent next to her, holding her hand, I realized that I had never loved her so much as during those precious moments together. So this is love, I mused. It had taken me 32 years so discover that. Now the promises we had made to each other before the altar of God finally made sense ". . .till death us do part." This is what being a husband means, I realized. To stay with your beloved as long as you can. To support her. To comfort her. As long as I held her hand, she knew I was there, she was safe. And as her life ebbed away, I thanked God that we had been given those precious few hours together.
This is why to end something as precious as that makes no sense. A husband or a wife, or a son or daughter will have the knowledge that by their consent the life of Mum or Dad had been snuffed out. It is true that she might have been spared a lot of the pain and discomfort of dying, to say nothing of the discomfort it would have spared me, but what guarantee was there that at any time later, I would have realized that she had died because I decided her life wasn't worth living any more?
I might have told her doctor to give her a lethal injection, but then the responsibility would have been shifted to him. He went into medicine presumably to ease suffering and to preserve life He had never bargained on having to end it, but the law of Canada now says he has to euthanasia a patient if she asks it, or refer her to another doctor who will do the deed.
So, our nation has come to this. Eliminate life at the start if it is inconvenient and put an end to it at the finish. And what of our tomorrows?