Monday, August 15, 2011

Great Uncle Morse

My Great Uncle Morse has been getting some press lately on his 'choosing when to go' . I find his views disturbing and unsettling from many perspectives. I am writing this post from several very personal standpoints.

Many people whom I cared for are no longer here. My Grandmother died suddenly from a heart attack when I was a child. Then I did not understand the nature of death or really grasp the tragedy of human existence. I do remember the finality of her coffin falling swiftly into its concrete tomb.

The next person close to me to pass was my best friend from college. Jerry developed a cancer and died at the young age of 22. He was diagnosed on the same week he was to be the best man at my wedding. I remembered when I visited him only several months later and not being able to shake his hand or give him a hug because the treatments destroyed his immune system. He died two weeks later.

My father was the next to go several years after Jerry. He developed tongue cancer. Although the chemotherapy and radiation treatments destroyed his body I don't believe he ever gave up on the fight to continue. I never believed that he could die, but he did on February 17th.

His father, my grandfather, persevered despite the loss of his wife and 2 sons until 6 months before his 100th birthday. Although his body failed, his mind never faltered. He died with a grace and dignity that I could only hope to follow. My only regret is that he narrowly missed meeting his two adopted great-grandchildren by two weeks. My second beloved grandfather known by us grandkids as Baboo was the next to go. Then there was our friend Joe, another WWII veteran who walked the streets of Hiroshima, and crewed a minesweeper in Tokyo Bay. Most recently, my mother-in-law Helen passed several years ago. She is sorely missed every day by my family.

In all my experiences with death, not one of my friends and relatives went gently into that 'good' night. Every one of them struggled greatly against it and sucked the very marrow of life just for a few more days, hours, minutes for more time with us.

Death is inevitable for all of us, so it should not be feared, but it is not something that should be embraced like an old friend. Death is not romantic. Its nature is awful, messy, undignified and generally horrible. Even when we euthanize our pets, do we do it for their benefit or for ours? What would they say if given a voice?

I believe my Uncle Morse is misguided and insincere in his quest for death. To fault the medical establishment for not providing a 'healing' murder is an argument from absurdity. To 'do no harm' cannot coexist with 'unless'. We do make choices on our medical care, or simply chose not to partake. Either way our fate is still in the hands of the divine not in our own hubris, guilt or weakness. I implore Uncle Morse to cease this insanity and embrace the people around him in life. Euthanasia is not a right. It is an anathema to to the human condition. Life is a gift to all of us. It should be lived fully and not cast away when it becomes uncomfortable.


Blogger MikeB said...

I couldn't disagree more. First, as a Libertarian, I don't want any laws that restrict my ability to live and die the way of my choosing, especially if I am of sound mind. But just as a human being, I want everyone to have the right to die as they choose. I don't want God to predestine or choose when I should die, I want to have my own free will. The universe doesn't care whether my brittle bones live to be 83 or 84 years old. I think that knowing that my time is up and leaving gracefully is full of humility. I think hubris would be to think that everyone needs to devote their lives to keeping me alive for one more week/month/year when my living is already done. I really hope that society gets this worked out by the time we reach old age so that we can leave this world on our terms. God bless you, Uncle Morse.

8:08 AM  
Blogger antihadron said...

I think you have misunderstood both me and my uncle. I draw the line between letting death happen naturally (as my Grandfathers did) and having someone else hasten it along (with a pill). In one you are merely bowing to the inevitable in as much comfort as you can. In the other, you are making a choice that in my opinion demonstrates a mental imbalance and weakness to face up to a natural process that recruits another as a means to the end.

As a libertarian, there are already unenforceable laws prohibiting suicide. We do not need more silly edicts. You do not need anyone's help to end your own life. If my uncle's objective were that, its as simple as taking a long walk in the New Hampshire woods in January or a road trip to Oregon.

What my uncle (says) he wants is a law that FORCES doctors to administer euthanasia. I believe that this goes against a doctor's oath to do so. Following a patient's wishes to withhold anything but palliative care and becoming a active participant are two completely different things. Any doctor that does this I feel is hypocritical and not Hippocratical.

Additionally, I do not and neither does my family believe that he is sincere in his 'quest'. In his past he has done a number of things that demonstrate a certain level of narcissism. If it were all about leaving life gracefully and with humility, calling a press conference seems to be the wrong way to go about it.

I feel this is just another antic not a sincere desire. In doing so, I feel he shames my family and those who met death with dignity.

It has very little to do with libertarianism. Most libertarians (I count my self here) should be in favor of preventing mentally imbalanced people from committing suicide. I feel that this type of desire demonstrates a mental imbalance (depression) that should not be actively encouraged or facilitated.

In this case, I don't believe that either my great uncle is sincere nor mentally imbalanced. His actions prove my opinion.

5:37 PM  
Blogger MikeB said...

If his motives are insincere as you suggest, then I agree that it would be inappropriate for him to put friends and doctors in a morally questionable position just to support his desires.

Having not met Uncle Morse, I couldn't really comment further on his specific situation.

After reading the article, as it was presented, I am however left with a general feeling that it would be nice, in the case of someone who sincerely and gracefully wanted to move on, to be able to do so without having to go through the almost impossible and sub-human task of trying to starve himself.

6:49 PM  
Blogger antihadron said...

My personal feelings about the appropriateness of suicide aside...

I think you would agree then that starvation is more of a means of garnering attention then an effective means to the stated goal?

Also, my uncle does not suffer from a chronic disease other than decrepitude which afflicts universally. Surely you don't think that suicide is an appropriate remedy for discomfort or boredom? Its a personal choice, but the line for many choices is reasonably drawn at "bodily harm to yourself or others".

Read more closely into what he is quoted on in the article. Its clear he has suffered a number of physical and emotional setbacks recently. I think the doctors that are quoted in the article are doing him a disservice by pronouncing him 'mentally sound' and 'gerotranscendence' whatever that is.

Suicide as a remedy for old age strikes me as perhaps offensive to many old people and a convenience to the young.

There is a family reunion coming up in September I probably will not be attending because I anticipate he will turn it into a travesty.

7:46 PM  

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