A Good Death: Taking More Control at the End of Your Life

A Good Death: Taking More Control at the End of Your Life

A Good Death: Taking More Control at the End of Your Life

A Good Death: Taking More Control at the End of Your Life

Excerpt

Eight years ago, when I first started working in what is called the "right to die" field, I was impressed with the vehemence people displayed when talking about the kind of dying they wanted to have. There was very little uncertainty in the minds of the people I met—they were sure that they did not want to linger in an unconscious or semi-conscious state, and personal dignity was often high on the list of things they wanted to keep. To be honest, I found it hard to understand why this was so important to so many people. Wouldn't being alive and feeling sunlight more than outweigh the physical indignity of wearing diapers or being restrained in a bed or chair?

Now I see it differently, as I have come to realize that living our lives is a creative act for most of us. We are a central character in a story we write ourselves, and it is not so much what happens to us but how we feel about it that gives our life shape and meaning. If we rob people of choice at the end of their lives we take away their individuality. If we force people to live in a way that is antithetical to all they have cared about, to all their ideas of their own identity, we do indeed offer a fate worse than death. To ignore personal choice is an act of real violence because it tramples personality. And for many of us the possibility of existing in a state in which we can no longer take part in crafting our own lives is a horrifying prospect that invalidates all the hard work we put into being conscious human beings.

Trainee volunteers in hospice programs are often asked to take part in an exercise that mirrors what many people feel at the end . . .

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