The Right to Die
“I just want to die” he cried out, in a voice that was close to a howl. “Can’t you see I’m in a living hell, I want to stop but I can’t and now, it’s too late; I know that I am dying”.
She, his wife of sixteen years and two children, a son and a daughter, was caught in a web of nursing this man for the last two years. She was wife, mother, nurse and sole provider for this little household.
In Rolf’s case, he was a chronic alcoholic, who spent most of his time in partial or extreme drunkenness. He smoked sixty cigarettes every day and did not want to eat properly, in spite of his wife’s trying to coax him to do so.
For two years Rolf had not had proper employment and what little money he did earn, a large portion was spent on alcohol and cigarettes. During the short periods of his sobriety he was a quiet and gentle man. The moment he began consuming alcohol, he transformed into an abusive demon. He verbally abused his wife and children and although he was never physically violent, he constantly shouted and threatened violence.
Brigitte was a softly spoken woman, who booked no nonsense, but at the same time she was deeply compassionate toward the man that she had loved and had been happily married to for fourteen years. She had a good job and was very protective toward her children. Her sober nature and protectiveness towards her children saved them from what could have been brutal treatment from their father.
After a visit to the hospital, because Rolf was now coughing severely, struggling to breathe and in great pain; he was diagnosed with a rare form of slow growing cancer.
The doctor said that his condition was terminal and although death was not imminent, suffering was however going to intensify.
With the combination of morphine, alcohol and cigarettes, Rolf had very little sleep and was in constant pain that intensified with each day.
He eventually begged Brigitte to help him to die. He said that he could no longer bear the pain and the inability to sleep. He asked her to speak to the doctor to help him to die.
The next visit to the hospital she asked the doctor if there was anything that could be done to end this terrible suffering. The doctor gently explained the laws controlling medical practice in these cases and the fact that even if it should one day be permissible to allow people to have their lives taken, it was not something in the foreseeable future.
Rolf lived for another six months in the most excruciating pain and finally succumbed to a massive heart attack and died.
He left a wife bereft and initially caught in between the emotions of relief and grief. He left two children, confused, angry and afraid for their future.
His wife was also angry at the fact that their precious savings had been depleted by medical and the wasted costs for cigarettes and alcohol over several years. Not to mention funeral expenses.
To add fuel to this fire was the fact that there was no insurance to cover any of the huge costs facing the little family.
Understanding that there are strong religious and moral beliefs, that will speak out against the ‘Right to Die’ issue and mostly these voices will come from those who have never faced anything like Brigitte and Rolf did.
The facts stare at us…..is it time to grant legislation in favour of those who wish to determine their own time to die?
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