At the intersection of Life and Death

June 13, 2017

Flowers in France.

At  A Healing Spirit, I work in that space that approaches the intersection of Life and Death.  I make products to help people who are grieving and others that support those intent on healing, many from potentially terminal diseases. Working so close to the concept and reality of death isn’t for everyone. But my path has led me here and I embrace the learning that goes along with accompanying people on difficult journeys.

But today, I’m talking about a tough and controversial topic. Legal euthanasia. Human, legal euthanasia.

What comes after life is a big ???

The recent Afterlife Conference–my third–again put me up close and personal with the idea of death.  Although my strong belief is that there is an incredible amount of “more” awaiting us after this life, I’m pretty much like anyone else. Life here is what I know and all the rest? It can’t be ‘known’ till I get there and that is a little scary.

No, I don’t believe there’s a wise old guy with a beard sitting up there in judgment and that we’ll all be floating on clouds if we’re “saved” and sent to burn in the fires of some Hell if we’re not. I think it’s simpler and more complicated than that.

Many, many thousands have reported on near-death experiences and their experiences are eerily similar, regardless of cultural background. Oh, sure, materialist science likes to come up with reasons those must be the crazy firing of neurons in a dying brain and body.

But that’s not what the evidence shows.

Still, what’s next is a mystery and few of us are anxious to hurry it along. Unless….life becomes unbearable in the most horrific of ways.

The question of legal euthanasia

On the plane back from France I saw a documentary on retired footballer Steve Gleason, who suffers from ALS.  it’s a horrific disease which robs victims of speech, movement and more –like breathing without mechanical assistance–but leaves a functioning brain that has to work hard to communicate with others. And of course, there are so many people coping with unspeakable pain, unbearable pain, horrible infirmities.

legal-euthanasiaWhich brings me to legal euthanasia.

It’s a difficult subject. But again, it’s one of those things that I believe is up to the individual. Maybe I wouldn’t have the nerve, myself, but then again, I haven’t suffered the kind of pain that would lead to such a decision.

But it’s a personal decision, not something to be mandated. In general, I don’t believe we have the right to take a life. Not an individual, not the state, not the nation. My complicated and highly personal views on abortion have evolved over the years, too.

But is it really so unspeakable?

But an adult choosing to end their pain and suffering is something I can understand and maybe it’s time we talked about it out loud.. Most humans, if they let go of dogma, would likely understand, as well. An attorney who helped a client prepare for legal euthanasia spent some time talking with me at the conference in Portland, the first time I’ve ever had a real-time discussion with someone about the Oregon law permitting euthanasia.

We’re not a society that works well with nuances, in general (note our president), but this is definitely a nuanced topic. It’s one that I’d love to hear your thoughts about, below. But first, I’d love for you to read this:

A New York Times story HERE about one man’s decision to end his life captured my heart and I think it’s worth reading. If the link fails, simply Google John Shields New York Times.  Thank you.







29 comments on “At the intersection of Life and Death
  1. Michele says:

    A very complicated topic for sure. I do believe in dying with dignity and it should be our own personal right to make this difficult decision.

  2. I feel quite strongly about assisted suicide. I feel fortunate to live directly next to a country that allows for death with dignity – Switzerland. I see nothing benificial about suffering at the closing phase of life. I have thought about this a lot (probably too much), I believe in past lives, and there’s always that niggly little thing in the back of my mind that says suicide means repeating the hardships and lessons not learned by taking the easy way out. But then I think, what do we really know about that? I don’t want to suffer, I don’t want M to suffer. I really don’t.

  3. Thanks for writing about a topic many people avoid. Watching my Dad suffer through dementia has taught our entire family a lot about the end of life and what our rights are/should be. I’ve told my husband if I end up in the same plight, find a way to end it.

  4. Robin rue says:

    I think anyone should have the right to end their pain and suffering if they should so choose. It’s THEIR life after all.

  5. Sarah Bailey says:

    I think it is such a complex subject, I have my own views on it which are quite complex and depend on the situation a lot of the time.

  6. Laurie Stone says:

    I think we should all have sovereignty over our lives… and deaths, if possible. I also read that piece in the Times and loved it. Such an important subject.

  7. Jennifer says:

    It’s funny how some people think assisted suicide is immoral, but allow the exact thing to happen by withholding a necessary treatment. My MIL was dying from cancer and was on dialysis to keep her kidneys functioning. Daily dialysis. Cancer would kill her in three months or her kidneys could in three days without the treatment. She made the decision to stop it because all it was doing was extending her pain. In those last three days of her life, three days, every family member passed through her room, talked with her, joked with her and told her they loved her. All while she was lucid and not in the kind of pain she would be after three more months with cancer. I don’t know why one option is frowned upon and one option is done daily in every hospital.

  8. The experience of seeing a relative suffer through pain until the end really had me look deep into my soul about the topic of euthanasia. While it’s thought to be humane to take beloved pets to the vet for euthanasia at the end of their lives to stop their suffering, we don’t extend that option of kindness and love to one another as humans. It’s because our thoughts on the topic are driven by deeply engrained religious beliefs.

  9. Vanessa says:

    No one should be able to make a decision about someone else’s body and life on this earth. It is too intimate and complex and I don’t believe we can even begin to comprehend the catalyst for wanting to end one’s life unless we were in the unfortunate situation where we had to make that choice ourselves.

  10. M Robinson says:

    I agree with the right-to-die. I’ve pondered this topic a lot recently due to a family concern, and I’ve decided that we should have control to make this choice with our caregivers. I think part of the problem is the word “suicide.” I’d argue that it carries a stigma that isn’t applicable. By the time a person considers assisted dying, he or she is already facing death;life has already been taken. In my mind, assisted dying is not the same as a healthy person choosing to end his or her life. To me, ending the suffering is humane and loving and kind. And, doesn’t burden one’s family with massive medical bills among other things. This is an important conversation. Thanks for the post.

  11. Tara Pittman says:

    This would be very hard to think about. I guess a large amount of pain would make one think about it.

  12. GiGi Eats says:

    I don’t often think about what comes AFTER… Because I don’t like to have morbid thoughts like that… But once in awhile, that thought crosses my mind. But I have no answers. And no one does. We will never know either. That is one thing in life that we all universally have no idea what to expect from.

  13. Rosey says:

    My uncle is very sick. Terminally. He’s the rock of his family and has been for years. I hope they seek help for the grieving process, for him and my aunt, if it will help.

  14. Mardene Carr says:

    Wow, topics like these are never easy to deal with. People are either fearful or just not ready to hear

  15. I am catholic so euthanasia is something my religion does not embrace nor accept. I think this is an individual decision and having a good answer on a controversial matter is always a difficult thing.

  16. Kelly Reci says:

    i am a catholic and i believe in life after death. i believe that only God can take one’s life. although ending one’s suffering and prolonged agony are the reasons why some people resort to euthanasia,i still don’t agree with that.

  17. blair villanueva says:

    I wont just the people who decides to proceed for euthanasia. However, life comes naturally, then you must follow the path and leave this nature naturally too.

  18. Czjai says:

    This is a rather sensitive topic, complicated even. While each of us can easily share our opinions about the issue, it becomes a totally different story when you’re actually faced with the crisis.

  19. Neha Saini says:

    The serious talks regarding this delicate topic can be and always are very vivid and scattered because of all the different minds coming into play. But one thing for sure, that embedded story of euthanasia of John is overwhelming.

  20. Difficult subject for me. We all have our own opinions and views on this topic. I go back and forth in what I believe.

  21. chen says:

    I believe that everyone has the right to decide what they really want(as long as they are not harming other people), even though sometimes their decision could be unbearable for their friends and families.

  22. This is a very complex topic, however I think people should be allowed to decide if they want to exit this world. Especially those who are terminally ill and have a lot of pain. Its not a way to live. Xx- Doran @HauteBeautyGuide

  23. Annemarie LeBlanc says:

    My faith dictates that it is only God that can take a life of someone. Euthanasia is not the answer to ease a person of his pain. There are ways to medically intervene to alleviate a person of his/her pain. “Pulling the plug” is assisted suicide and that is against the law of God.

  24. Coralie says:

    This is a difficult subject and should be completely up to the people directly involved. Pain and suffering when there is no chance of recovery are unnecessary. I also believe in an afterlife and a God that welcomes us when we return to heaven.

  25. amer says:

    This is a very sensitive topic.What important is, we are capable of respecting people’s beliefs.

  26. wendy says:

    I don’t know what comes after death, but I hope that it’s peaceful. I know this is a complicated subject to tackle and I think it comes down to ..what you believe. Faith.

  27. JULie syl says:

    It such an interesting post! I am completely enjoy reading this. Thank you for sharing this.

  28. Gemma says:

    I remember writing a research on euthanasia when I was in high school. It is easy to judge but would realize how hard a decision it could be if you’re in the situation and it involves your family.

  29. aurora says:

    Legal Euthanasia is something that is so very complicated. There should always be exceptions to this.

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