LETTER: A nursing student's plea to allow people to die with dignity
It was a cool February day when I was forced to play the role of God and make one of the toughest decisions of my life: to end my cat’s pain and suffering through euthanasia. Having had a very special bond with animals all my life, this was not a decision I took lightly.
(As she was) previously healthy, I immediately noticed my cat was unwell; she was in obvious pain, avoided affection, and was in every way not herself. When I took her to the vet, the prognosis wasn’t good: severe kidney failure. I was given two options: to try and help her through “life-saving” measures of intravenous fluid and medications or to end her pain and suffering through euthanasia. Though I loved my cat very much and would do anything to keep her in my life, I took one look into her hazel eyes and I knew. If my cat
had a voice, she would’ve asked me to do the most unselfish favour a pet owner could do and end her suffering. Though I still miss her terribly, I know I did the right thing by not prolonging her inevitable death and sparing her excruciating pain and suffering.
I’d like to flip this letter now.
Being a nursing student and a health care aide, I’ve worked with many individuals and families who have terminal conditions with poor prognoses. I’ve sat with people while they struggle to take their last breath. I’ve seen people suffer symptoms of an illness with no cure. I’ve seen people’s bodies fail while their minds flourish with activity in their virtually lifeless, hollow bodies. I’ve listened to the news coverage as Dr. Donald Low and Gloria Taylor beg and plead for the right to choose to end their suffering.
So why is no one answering their cry for help?
In life, we are given so many choices, from what we eat, to what we wear, to what we do for a living. The only choice we do not have is to the choice to die with dignity when faced with a terminal illness. We wouldn’t put an animal through the pain and suffering of a terminal illness because it’s cruel; so why do we do it to our loved ones?
Why are we able to decide the fate of a living creature but are unable to make that same decision for ourselves?
We’ve chosen to live our lives to the standards we’ve set out for ourselves – why would we let an illness take that away?
Citizens of Castlegar, I’m not asking you to change the world’s view on this controversial issue. Instead, I am urging you to make your voice heard a different way; I encourage you to speak with your loved ones to make your wishes known, because one day, you too may be left without a voice.