A parent’s right to die

There is a lot of discussion going on at The New York Times blog, “The New Old Age.” The writer there and another blogger recently wrote about how their mothers chose to end their own lives – one through suicide by suffocation and the other by refusing food and water (neither had Alzheimer’s, but both had health problems). Both posts prompted lots of comments, most of which were supportive of the mothers’ decisions. Of course, there are detractors who cannot relate to the idea that two women would write about this and not express guilt or anger about their mothers’ decisions to deliberately die. Some claim a person can’t ever REALLY be OK with a parent’s choice to die. I don’t know what I would have done had my mom elected to kill herself after her diagnosis. But what I do know is that she would NEVER have voluntarily opted for this path to death, and I don’t think anybody would.

I left this comment on the NYT blog:

I wish my mother had the ability to make a decision about her own death. By the time she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, her competence was compromised. She was aware enough to sign a durable power of attorney and agree to forgo dramatic lifesaving measures, but I don’t see that as likely to apply for years. So now this smart, funny woman is destined to finish her life in a nursing home after first draining her bank account to pay for assisted living for less than two years. She still gets some pleasure out of life, tending to her cat, eating sweets and watching TV, but she is becoming more and more withdrawn. At some point, social activity won’t be meaningful to her. Meanwhile, she is prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs and thyroid medication – for what purpose? To prolong a life like this? I am not inclined to selfishly want my mother to keep living for my own comfort. I am selfish because I don’t want to watch her die in the way she inevitably will.

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1 comment so far

  1. Vicki on

    It’s compassionate, not selfish, to want to spare suffering in somebody you love, most especially when the suffering isn’t going to buy a happy ending. It’s heartbreaking in this instance, in your mother.


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