This Right To Die

It was near the end of my father’s life that my mother began pushing the suicide debate in earnest, asking for some kind of drug to ease her best friend’s inevitable departure. There were quiet meetings and heated discussions, and for awhile my mother seemed hopeful. In a way. But then the doctors said no. There was really, really nothing they could do.

I remember being confused that the doctors thought it’d be better for my dad to die slowly, drowning in his own saliva day by claustrophobic day. That there was no such thing as a right to die. Just the deep, lasting trauma of his suicide demands.

A few months before my dad died, Dr. Kevorkian made headlines for assisting in Janet Adkins’ death. It was all so shocking. So new. Euthanasia wasn’t something that normal people talked about, except now it totally was. And I was transfixed.

Even more, I was disgusted by the 1990s hysteria, watching the debate over assisted suicide and “mercy machines” with equal parts fascination and revulsion. Who were all these people condemning patients like my father without knowing him? Without holding his hand and asking what he knew about his inability to either live or die.

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