Dignity vs. Dogma

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*** IMMEDIATE DISCLAIMER ***

The contents of this next blog represent an esoteric series of thoughts as well as an opportunity for discussion of the recently passed “Death With Dignity” law in California, and in no way represent any kind of suicidal feelings from me.  It’s a sensitive topic, and like all sensitive topics the context should be able to be discussed without anyone freaking out and worrying that my belief in euthanasia means I’m suicidal.  If I write something in this blog that triggers that kind of concern within yourself, please re-read this disclaimer.  Thank you.

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Heather Parrie defined the above suicidal / depression survival tattoo’s meaning as follows from a Huffington Post article earlier this year:

“A semicolon is a spot in a sentance where an author has an option to stop, but chooses not to.”

A lot of people appear to be running with that concept this year, choosing to brand themselves with a semicolon as a reminder of their own strength, and their decision to persevere.  I applaud them for opening up the door to the conversation as we have an unworkable system, the denial of death as a part of life.

Unfortunately, there is no similar tattoo that one can carve into their skin which illustrates an equally strong feeling or committment to support their belief in euthanasia.  When it’s time.  Whatever the heck that means -“When it’s time.”  Who the heck knows when it’s time before the event, who would not immediately be accused of being suicidal?

Euthanasia cloud. Image by fotolia.com.

There is such a swirl of emotions around the cloud of the euthanasia concept, that I went looking for those tattoos.  Let me assure you, I would not last through the engraving process of a single letter, never mind front and back stensils of my preferences in an entire sentence.  If someone wants to go enough to get a tattoo, IMHO they have clearly given the topic some extended thought.

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Ouchie !

Does my fear of unnecessary pain mean that I’m not an ardent (enough) believer in the right to end one’s own suffering?  No, it just means that I hate needles.  To illustrate, I had some bloodwork done this past weekend, and it’s now 4 days later and I’m still carrying around the battle scars from that simple, routine procedure.

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The bruising is fading, but the image above is symptomatic and very illustrative of one’s body being unable to tolerate intrusions well and bounce back without pain from what should otherwise be a routine procedure (giving blood) on a healthy body.

My body isn’t happy most days, but I can hide the battle scars under clothing, our last refuge from prying eyes, and so it makes me wonder where best to install an “I choose euthanasia” tattoo on my body.

If I were to follow the battle lines of my bruising, the tattoo would be on the back of my hand – the most likely place they would be able to insert a needle to either take blood or host an IV treatment of some sort.

If I were to follow the logic that my torso would be involved, I’d be tattooing both my back and front of my chest. However, that’s just too ugly for me.  Nevermind likely to be painful to endure during the inscription.  So, I went looking for a bracelet, and here’s what I found:

image Along with image

personally, though, I’m not willing to put on such a bracelet yet, as there is a lot more to the living will / medical care directives beyond a 1-size-fits-all DNR bracelet or tattoo.

If I’m unconscious from a fall or a car accident, I’d want to have the proper medical treatment provided to get me back up on my feet.   …The key concept being the fact that I’d be restored to independence and enjoy some quality of life.

Unfortunately, people don’t seem to want to think through difficult concepts in this world, and just want the quick answers.  DNR bracelet = withhold care / let me die, vs. the living will setting out the standards of my care, and under what circumstances the Death With Dignity decision should be triggered.

I went through this whole debate on behalf of my mother when her COPD had taken a turn for the worse and she was found unconscious in her home by my baby sister.  Transported to the hospital, ignored by her primary care physician, Mom was left in limbo for 9 days in the hospital, until I was finally advised to fly home because the nurses feared she wouldn’t make it through the night.

Upon arrival, questions asked of my big brother on the way home from the airport got nonsensical responses because no one knew, or wanted to know, what was going on with her health.  Because she was a smoker, they’d written her off as slowly killing herself, vs. having the difficult conversations necessary to understand her quality of life and what she did or didn’t want for her end of life options.

Conversations with my baby sister were equally painful, once I realized that this was just another chapter in symptoms management,  and that hospice should be called vs. leaving her to waste away in the hospital until she died of neglect from starvation.  Accused of cruelly “forcing” my mother to live by bringing her home under hospice care, I had to provide both my siblings and their families a copy of Mom’s Living Will, and demand that they read the document and show me any other options open to us as the folks charged with carrying out her final wishes.

Death and dealing with terminal illnesses isn’t for wimps. Respecting someone’s Living Will is critcal for understanding what their flavor of euthanasia and death with dignity involves.

So, I kept on looking and found another euthanasia-supportive bracelet which includes either a copy of one’s healthcare directive and living will, or sends the emergency response team to the internet to download and read it for themselves.  Think anyone will actually bother to read the document?

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I think I’m goung to have to make a custom bracelet which says, “Living Will – no ventilator life support” vs. the 1-size-fits-most DNR that normally accompanies such thinking.  Or, I’ll be far enough along in my disability journey that I won’t care about the whole DNR issue because I’ll have run out of options which allow me to continue to pay for my own preferences with regard to living in peace.

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Want to read Heather’s article?  Click here.

2 thoughts on “Dignity vs. Dogma

  1. I’m always asked about that living will business every time I go to the hospital. Even if it’s for outpatient and relatively minor surgery. I always say I have one, even though I don’t have a current copy and if I WERE to be terminal, nobody would know where to find it anyway. Having watched someone go through a slow death, largely unconscious the whole time (I think) who did not ever want heroic efforts expended to continue their life – I got the strong sense that the hospital workers – either out of an over developed sense of their Hippocratic oath (do they know what that is? I wonder sometimes) or out of duty; would ignore even a tattoo of DNR right on one’s chest or wrist. My mother was cognizant if not coherent precisely about her wishes and DNR was written in large red letters on her chart. She got her wish – but it was because of negligence, not because they gave a fig about that DNR right there. Hubby (who is the person I watched die) always told me that he didn’t want to be on machines and with tubes and “crap” keeping him alive, yet he got just that – for two weeks almost. They didn’t LISTEN. I was thinking of his children (my steps) and so I didn’t force the issue. But in the end I did. And I told his children that I was going to have the hospital pull the plug. And he died real soon after they stopped the ventilator. To ME? He died 11 days before, when they stuck him on the machines in the first place. He had nothing in writing, just his verbally expressed wishes to me, and that’s the tool they used to deny him dignity and dying the way he wanted to. So it’s prudent to have a copy of a living will with you at all times (laminate it and stick it in your purse or something) and then hope you get someone who will follow its directives. To those of us without family (no children or spouse who is the ‘go to’ in life/death situations, that’s the only voice we have. And I’m a hypocrite because I haven’t followed my own advice.

    Liked by 1 person

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