Tag Archives: Dignity

The Right To An Assist

My mom never asked me to kill her.

She would, she told me, spare me that. But, she also finished her thought with a reminder that should I find her dead by her own hand, it wasn’t an indictment of anyone, but merely because she wasn’t enjoying her life any more.

Mom, who died from complications of Multiple Sclerosis and meningitis in February 2011, had suffered from Multiple Sclerosis for almost as long as I can remember and she hated it. She hated the fact that she couldn’t chase after her grandchildren, or even lift them out of their cribs.

She walked with a cane and a brace, but really needed a walker there near the end. She had her friends and her house and her sports she loved to watch.

Still, no matter how happy she seemed, she made sure to tell me and my sister, Tia, that she always reserved the right to check out any time the MS got to be too much, took away too much of her enjoyment of life.

Maybe it was because I grew up with that idea hovering in the background, but I’ve always believed that people should be able to choose when to give up the fight. Folks should be able to exit the stage at their own discretion. Of course, I also believe that, in most cases, suicide is a stupidly permanent solution to a temporary problem.

But what if the problem isn’t temporary? What if it will be with you, hamper you, throughout the rest of your life?

That’s the difference, as I see it.

And I’m not alone.Dr. Stephen Hawking

Dr. Stephen Hawking, widely renowned as one of the most intelligent people in the world, recently talked to the media about the importance of being allowed to choose an assistant to help him take his own life. Not just him, Hawking said, but anyone who needs the help should have it and not worry that the helper will be pursued by the law for what they did.

Hawking, who has progressive motor neuron disease and has already lost the ability to move most of his body under his own power and can only speak through a computerized synthesizer, said assisting suicide should be legal, but there must be safeguards put in place to prevent any kind of abuse.

“There must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and they are not being pressurized into it or have it done without their knowledge or consent as would have been the case with me.”

Although Hawking at one point was put on a respirator and more severe life support machines, the off switch given to his wife, he has always maintained that, where there is life, there is hope. However, he recognizes that choosing to end a life filled with pain is a very personal decision and one that should only be made by the person in question.

Sir Terry PratchettIn addition to Hawking, Sir Terry Pratchett, a man I believe to be the greatest writer of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, is a firm believer in the right of a person with a terminal disease to take his or her own life. Pratchett, author of more than 50 books, suffers from an early-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease. He’s one of the most vocal campaigners in Britain for the right to choose when to die.

Pratchett recently released a second documentary chronicling his quest to make the right to die one found in Britain and other countries around the world.

He counts himself lucky, despite his diagnosis.

I have to tell you that I thought I’d be a lot worse than this by now. And so did my specialist. At the moment, it’s the fact that I’m well into my sixties [he is 64] that’s the problem. All the minor things that flesh is heir to. This knee is giving me a bit of gyp. That sort of thing. And I’m well into the time of life when a man knows he has a prostate. By the time you’ve reached your sixties you do know that one day you will die and knowing that is at least the beginning of wisdom.

Still, he says, no matter how well or how poorly he’s doing, he wants to be able to reserve the right to die when he believes it’s time. He will, he said, know when the pain in his life is too much to bear. When life becomes a burden to be endured, rather than a profound joy to experience.

(Pratchett) is dismayed that Tony Nicklinson, the severely disabled man (in England) who fought and last month lost an impassioned campaign to end his life, effectively had to starve himself to death. “I put his picture on the little lectern by my desk because I don’t want this guy forgotten. He was very clear about what he wanted and you cannot tell me that two doctors helping him to go to sleep [as in a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland], would constitute murder. It cannot be murder. The law says it’s murder so the law is most definitely wrong and needs to be changed. This poor guy was a prisoner of technology.”

It’s time, dudes. It’s time for us to find a way to let people like Pratchett, Hawking or my mom exit with dignity and on their own schedule. These are not people who are having a bad day, but rather begging to be allowed to make the ultimate decision as to whether their life is worth living.

My mom never asked me to kill her. But I would have.

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Learning A Lesson From The Other Side Of The Desk

by Richard

How early is too early to start learning to become a racist? I ask because I got a nice shock while sitting down with a room full of pre-double-digit shriekers.

I’m still getting used to being on the other side of the desk in the classroom, being the one who’s being stared at instead of one of many sets of eyes looking for weakness and trying to find a way to exploit it.

Yeah, I’m talking about teaching here and a great lesson a bunch of third graders taught me last week. Here’s the deal. I’m supposed to be a tutor, working with a small group of students at a time. However, one of the teachers with whom I work had to be out of class for two days and couldn’t get a substitute. Fortunately, she knew a big sap.

So off she ran to learn how to become a more effective teacher. I’m not sure this was actually a good idea, considering she’s already a fantastic teacher, someone who never loses her cool and always speaks in a calming, forceful tone of voice that instantly compels obedience. I find myself hopping to stand in line for just a second before I recover my dignity and remember she’s half my age.

Anyway. Off she went and left me to teach the lesson, a lot of which happened to be on the civil rights struggle most evident in the US during the 1950s and 1960s. And it was beautiful.

I talked to the little dudes and dudettes about how places would have an acceptable water fountain for only whites and then a cruddy one for people of color. We talked about all the things that were denied to people of color, all the difficulties that were heaped on them just because of how they looked.

They seemed to get the lesson. They helped fill in some questions about what had happened. They seemed to get it. And then a little dude asked the question that gave me such hope.

“Mr. Jones,” he said. “I don’t get it.”

“What do you mean, (Name redacted to protect the awesome)?”

“Well, I understand what happened, but I don’t understand why. Why did they do that stuff?”

If you’ve read this daily blog for any length of time, say a minute or two, over the last seven years, I think you can be pretty sure of knowing that I’m never at a loss for words. At least I wasn’t until then. I didn’t know what to tell the little dude. I’ve never understood it, myself. Why those folks could look at a human being, who spoke, who thought, who loved and hated and laughed and, simply because of a different color skin, declare that dude to not be human and not be worthy of respect.

If I didn’t get it, how could I explain it to the class?

Even better, the rest of the class followed up on his question. It was another waving meadow of hands, all of them indicating their confusion. I couldn’t have been happier, but I still had to come up with something.

“Well,” I told the class, “I like to think there was a sudden and massive increase in the national IQ and national empathy.”

I shrugged.

“I guess people were just stupider back then.”

And most of the class just nodded their heads, agreeing. It was as good an answer as any.

This honest confusion was a wonderful thing to see. They couldn’t conceive of treating the other kids in their classroom like that. And that, it seems, is a good thing for the future. Let’s hope the idiot dinosaurs die off real quicklike so these young dudes can start taking charge.

Now that’s change for the better.

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Freaky Friday: Too Sexy For My Comfort

by Richard

Dudes, let me tell you, there are times when I am so very, very, very glad I never had a daughter. Like, for instance, right now.

See, I just finished reading a couple of news articles that were talking about how there’s a trend toward young dudettes, and here I’m talking 10 years old and similar, wearing clothing that’s just miniature versions of the sexed-up, revealing outfits that are so popular for the older teens and young ladies in their 20’s.

This, frankly, (and I don’t think this is my inner-old-man-yelling-for-those-kids-to-get-off-my-lawn self speaking) is just not right.

To quote from the article in the Charlotte Observer by Christina Bolling: Sexy is everywhere in girls fashion today. Training bras come padded in hot pink with black piping and matching panties. Abercrombie & Fitch drew fire from parents this spring when it offered a push-up bikini for 8-year-olds. . . . And the TLC show “Toddlers & Tiaras” earlier this fall featured a 3-year-old dressed in a replica Julia Roberts hooker outfit from “Pretty Women.”

This is crazy! A push-up bikini for 8-year-olds? They’re barely out of diapers. And, seriously, I can’t even get started on the abomination that is “Toddlers & Tiaras” without becoming so madisgusted I lose control of my typing fingers and start ranting in misspelled obscenities. People. . . Parents, get a grip!

Of course the young dudes and dudettes want to be older. That’s just the way of it. Hyper Lad, who’s 12, wants to be like his older brothers and keeps insisting that he’s old enough to go to R-rated movies by himself. But we don’t let him. That’s because we’re parents. We get to decide what’s right for our young dudes.

Just like parents of young dudettes get to decide what’s right for their precious daughters to wear. The kids might get a (slight) say in the conversation/decision, but it’s the parents who have the final word. Think it’s too sexy? Don’t buy it! You might get an argument or a temper tantrum, but it’s worth it to preserve the shreds of your daughter’s dignity and let her grow up at a pace she’s comfortable with instead of racing ahead too fast.

I mean, what is wrong with those horrible parents on “Toddlers & Tiaras?” And what is wrong with parents who actually shell out the money for push-up bras for girls barely out of onsies? Really, come to your senses, people. They’re kids. They should act and dress like it. They shouldn’t be trying to sex up how their little girls look.

I don’t care if it’s the “fashionable” look. If it’s wrong (and it is), say no. And mean it. A little disappointment in the lives of the young dudettes will be good for them in the long run.

Here and now, let’s make a vow. Let little girls grow up slowly. Adulthood lasts a long, long time. There’s no need to rush into it.

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