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The Right to Die - In a Decent Way

Hello my viewers,

Years ago in college I was in a debate contest about the Right to Die, also known as Assisted Dying.  It was a truly intriguing and emotional roller-coaster to research the topic and then defend it.  And I always recall part of that research where I learned how Native American women knew their time to die was coming, so they put on a good meal, invited friends and family, then cleaned up, and then simply went for a walk, found a tree to sit under that was a comfortable spot, and then simply willed their bodies to shut down and die.  Wow I thought.  That is so very cool and so powerful!

So over the years I shared this story with my elderly Aunt that I cared for over a period of 15 years and one day she asked me if I really believed it and if it could be done.  I said absolutely and in her case, all she had to do was stop eating and stop taking her 26 pills of meds each day and within a short time she would slip into a coma sleep and shortly thereafter pass over into glory.

Well, that is exactly what she chose to do and did so to the absolute astonishment and amazement of all her family, friends, doctors, and hospice staff in the process.  What an amazing statement of "I am still in control" that my Aunt showed us all and certainly she became a model of excellence for all of us to emulate.

Meanwhile, the following two articles relate to that.  One from Desmond Tutu regarding the passing of Nelson Mandela and the other from Lord Carey the former Archbishop of Canterbury about helping someone die with dignity.  So read on.... give this some good thought...and then pass it on.

Thank you for being here and thank you for supporting this website.

In Love, Light, Peace and Service,

MJ Handy 


Posted at the Golden Age of Gaia  by Stephen Cook July 14, 2014

Desmond Tutu says that the way his friend Nelson Mandela was treated towards the end of his life was an affront to his dignity. Photograph: Media24/Gallo Images/Getty

By Desmond Tutu, July 12, 2014 – http://tinyurl.com/md2mnxo

The manner of Nelson Mandela's prolonged death was an affront. I have spent my life working for dignity for the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying.

During all my years of pastoral care, I have never had the privilege of being with someone when they die. I've visited dying colleagues and friends at St Luke's hospice, Cape Town, in the last period of their lives; I've witnessed their being cared for beautifully – but I've never been there at the exact moment of passing.

I've been asked why I consider it a privilege to be present when temporal death takes place. It comes from my belief system. It is the wonder of a new life beginning, the wonder of someone going to meet their maker, returning to their source of life. In some ways, death is like a birth; it is the transition to a new life. I am myself now closer to my end than to my beginning. Dying is part of life. We have to die. The Earth cannot sustain us and the millions of people that came before us. We have to make way for those who are yet to be born. And since dying is part of life, talking about it shouldn't be taboo. People should die a decent death. For me that means having had the conversations with those I have crossed in life and being at peace. It means being able to say goodbye to loved ones – if possible, at home. Recently I discussed my wishes with my youngest daughter, Mpho: my choice of the liturgy, the hymns, and who should preach. I'd like to lie overnight in St Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg. It was such an important place in my life; it's where I became a deacon, where so many important things happened. I would like to be cremated; some people are not comfortable with that idea. I'd like my ashes to be interred at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town.

There are certain African traditions I am not comfortable with: the turning of photos to face the wall, the clearing of furniture from the bedroom and placing of straw mats for the women to sit on for days. I am comfortable that on my passing these traditions should not be followed. It concerns me how people get into debt at funerals, buying expensive caskets, slaughtering animals they can ill afford to pay for. I want to role model modesty. I would like a simple coffin, the one of plain wood, with the rope handles. I would like modest refreshments after my funeral. If people want to slaughter an animal as part of traditional ritual, I'd be happy with a sheep or a goat – it doesn't need to be a big animal. My memorial stone should also be modest. My concern is not just about affordability; it's my strong preference that money should be spent on the living.

This takes me to the question of what does it mean to be alive. What constitutes quality of life and dignity when dying? These are big, important questions. I have come to realise that I do not want my life to be prolonged artificially. I think when you need machines to help you breathe, then you have to ask questions about the quality of life being experienced and about the way money is being spent. This may be hard for some people to consider.

But why is a life that is ending being prolonged? Why is money being spent in this way? It could be better spent on a mother giving birth to a baby, or an organ transplant needed by a young person. Money should be spent on those that are at the beginning or in full flow of their life. Of course, these are my personal opinions and not of my church.

What was done to Madiba (Nelson Mandela) was disgraceful. There was that occasion when Madiba was televised with political leaders, President Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. You could see Madiba was not fully there. He did not speak. He was not connecting. My friend was no longer himself. It was an affront to Madiba's dignity.

It is important for all of us to talk about death and our dying. A survey was done of doctors in the UK in 2008. As many as two-thirds of them said they had difficulty discussing end-of-life care with their patients. Physicians were once healers of life and easers of death. In the 20th century the training for the latter has been neglected.

Death can come to us at any age. The clearer we are about our end-of-life preferences, the easier it will be for our loved ones and our doctors. I am coming to understand the importance of having a living will or advance directive, as some people call it. I do not want artificial feeding or to be on an artificial breathing machine – I don't want people to do their damnedest to keep me alive.

I've learned there are wider societal benefits to living wills. In La Crosse, Wisconsin, where physicians campaigned for decades for all adults to sign their end-of-life preferences, one benefit has been the savings, for families, for the government and healthcare companies – savings now used more creatively elsewhere. The second upside is that having discussions earlier in life seems to put people's minds at rest and they live longer – how else do you explain that life expectancy in La Crosse is now statistically higher than other similar geographies?

I was asked recently what I would wish for myself if I had a terminal illness and my quality of life was seriously deteriorating. This year I followed the case of the French doctor Nicolas Bonnemaison, who assisted several people to die. It was anticipated that there could be a heavy prison sentence. Several witnesses, family members included, wrote to support the doctor's actions as compassionate. The doctor was acquitted. There were jubilant celebrations. And Britain's supreme court recently ruled that a ban on assisted suicide is incompatible with human rights.

We need to revisit our own South African laws which are not aligned to a constitution that espouses the human right to dignity. On our own soil Craig Schonegevel, after 28 years of struggling with neurofibromatosis, decided his quality of life was too poor. He'd had so many surgical procedures the thought of enduring more was unbearable. He could find no legal assistance to help him die. On the night of 1 September 2009, he swallowed 12 sleeping pills, put two plastic bags over his head tied with elastic bands and was found dead by his parents the next morning. Craig wanted to end his life legally assisted, listening to his favourite music and in the embrace of his beloved parents, Patsy and Neville. Our legal system denied him and his family this dignity.

I am coming to understand the importance of language on this sensitive issue. The words euthanasia and suicide carry negative connotations. Suicide is considered a premature death often accompanied by mental instability. Craig's thinking was crystal clear; he wanted autonomy and dignity.

Some say that palliative care, including the giving of sedation to ensure freedom from pain, should be enough for the journeying towards an easeful death. Some people opine that with good palliative care there is no need for assisted dying, no need for people to request to be legally given a lethal dose of medication. That was not the case for Craig Schonegevel. Others assert their right to autonomy and consciousness – why exit in the fog of sedation when there's the alternative of being alert and truly present with loved ones?

I have been fortunate to spend my life working for dignity for the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying.

I revere the sanctity of life – but not at any cost. I confirm I don't want my life prolonged. I can see I would probably incline towards the quality of life argument, whereas others will be more comfortable with palliative care. Yes, I think a lot of people would be upset if I said I wanted assisted dying. I would say I wouldn't mind actually.

On Mandela Day on Friday we will be thinking of a great man. On the same day in London, the House of Lords will hold a second hearing on Lord Falconer's bill on assisted dying. Oregon, Washington, Quebec, Holland, Switzerland have already taken this step. South Africa has a hard-won constitution that we are proud of that should provide a basis to guide changes to the legal status of end-of-life wishes to support the dignity of the dying.

On our continent of Africa, dying as an elderly person is a privilege. We are sadly too familiar with the early deaths of loved ones. War, violence, HIV/Aids and socioeconomic diseases take their toll. We need a mind shift in our societies. We need to think. We need to question. What is life? And isn't death part of living – a natural part of life?

Desmond Tutu is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town and a Nobel peace laureate. He is chair of the Elders, an international group of former political leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela to work for peace, justice and human rights

Right to Die: Ex-Archbishop Lord Carey Makes U-turn on Assisted Dying

By Andy Mcsmith, The Independent, July 11,2014 - http://tinyurl.com/lxkzkha

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has called for Parliament to think again about whether terminally ill patients should be granted the right to choose when to die.However Archbishop Welby described the Bill to be debated in the House of Lords on Friday as "mistaken and dangerous".

Writing in the Times, Archbishop Welby said he understood how seeing a loved one suffer prompted the desire to "do almost anything" to alleviate their suffering.

He cited the agony he suffered seeing his own seven-month-old daughter Johanna, who was fatally injured in a car crash in France, die in 1983.

But he warned that the "deep personal demands" of one situation should not blind people to the needs of others including more than a half a million elderly people who are estimated to be abused every year in the UK.

"It would be very naive to think that many of the elderly people who are abused and neglected each year, as well as many severely disabled individuals, would not be put under pressure to end their lives if assisted suicide were permitted by law," he wrote.

Lord Carey's positive views on the bill run counter to the long-established position of the Church of England, which is opposed to any change in the law that would make assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia legal.

His surprise intervention comes as peers prepare to debate a Bill presented by the former Labour Lord Chancellor, Charles Falconer, which would allow doctors to prescribe poison to terminally ill and mentally alert people who wish to kill themselves.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Lord Carey said he was still implacably opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia – but would support the assisted dying bill during its second reading next Friday.

He wrote: "Until recently, I would have fiercely opposed Lord Falconer's Bill, following the traditional line of the Christian Church. I would have used the time-honoured argument that we should be devoting ourselves to care, not killing.

"I would have paraded all the usual concerns about the risks of 'slippery slopes' and 'state-sponsored euthanasia'.

"But those arguments which persuaded me in the past... fail to address the fundamental question as to why we should force terminally ill patients to an unbearable point. It is the magnitude of suffering that has been preying on my mind as the discussion... has intensified."

The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, warned recently that unless Parliament decides whether to amend the law, the courts may do the job for them. So far, 110 peers have indicated that they want to speak in Friday's debate on the Falconer Bill.