Wikipedia explains the Death with Dignity Act: The “Death with Dignity Act” is a controversial bill that allows for legal self-euthanasia. It is aimed towards terminally ill patients, who otherwise do not have a chance to recover from untreatable diseases. The majority of the opposition is religious based, they are against assisted suicide. Some doctors are also against the bill for moral reasons, they are ending the patients’ lives or helping them end their own.
My hospice patient died last week. Three weeks ago she was in severe pain and her medications weren’t strong enough. She moved to a hospice home for pain management. Unfortunately, pain medications, like morphine, cannot stop all forms of pain. What if someone is suffering? How can we help them? What if they want to end their life?
My Buddhist teacher, who is from Sri Lanka, said we must not interfere with the divine nature of human beings. We are given life and we must live our lives out to the end. Death is a personal experience and people from the outside must not interfere. Also, my teacher said that pain is an individual experience. We cannot judge someone’s pain. If you are in pain, then you must know it will not last. Just remember the saying, “This too shall pass.” I know for someone who is suffering, it’s hard to remember the impermanence of suffering.
I struggle a little with this. My seventeen-year-old cat, Rajah, was suffering from stomach and intestinal pain. He threw up daily and he went from 16 pounds to 7 pounds. He was sick and suffering so I took him to the veterinary clinic and they euthanized him. My Buddhist teacher told me that it was wrong of me to end my cat’s life. It was not my decision. My cat had his own life to LIVE. All beings must live their lives in a natural way and die in a natural way.
I have a lot of compassion and I thought it was compassionate to put my cat “to sleep.” I thought I was doing the right thing. Now I understand that I could have been there for my cat until the end. Yes, it was more convenient to end his life instead of cleaning up vomit and feces everyday. That seems like a harsh statement but it’s true. Now I am sorry. I hope my cat can forgive me.
Each person must seek wisdom in every situation. If you are unsure about what to do then ask an elder, wise woman or man, or a religious teacher about what action to take. We have help on this earth. We are not alone. Furthermore, we need to be careful about what the media is saying about these serious issues of life and death. To live an authentic life, we must see the divine in all living beings.
I could have taken time for my cat. I could have sat with him during the last hours of his life. This action would have honored his divinity. Doing the right thing has long-lasting positive consequences. We must be mindful to take the right action.
I have a lot of compassion for all living beings and my hospice patients. According to Wikipedia, “Compassion is a response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help.” Hospice and palliative care helps to ease pain and suffering of patients. There are many ways we can help patients live out their lives to the end with honor and dignity.