How We Die

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(HOST) With death and dying so much in the headlines lately, commentator Bill Meub has been reflecting on his own end-of-life arrangements.

(MEUB) During the last two weeks, events both public and private have combined to make me think more about how I view death, and how I will approach my own death, than at almost any other time in my life.

I respect the matter-of-fact way in which the Pope accepted his physical decline and death – as a part of our earthly life. The peace with which the Pope was able to embrace his own death is an example for us all. On the other hand, the public spectacle of Terri Schiavo’s death and the political opportunism that marred the end of her life made me cringe.

My wife Carolyn and I have spent hours revisiting our past discussions on death, making sure we are clear with each other about our wishes. I can tell you that, for sometime, both Carolyn and I have had a signed durable power of attorney for health care – sometimes called a living will or health directive – and I recommend to my clients all the time that they have one. I never want my wife to have to go through what Michael Schiavo went through. It’s hard enough to deal with a spouse being seriously injured and endure the uncertainties that this brings. But to have to watch your spouse kept alive under circumstances you know they wouldn’t want must be torture.

The whole area of medical-legal ethics and law is a complex and difficult one. Medical advances have caused all of us to have to ask ourselves very important questions about our values and what is right – for us. Advances in medicine have changed the ethical, moral and legal landscape. Medical advances have saved many lives and permitted people to return to normal lifestyles; these examples we applaud. But when medical advances keep other people alive long past the time that their lives would otherwise have ended, we need to ask ourselves: what are we trying to accomplish?

People should have the right to choose how they die. And, when they no longer can make those choices themselves, those whom they have designated should be able to carry out their desires.

I respect those who have different philosophical or religious beliefs from mine. I believe that those who believe differently than I do on many moral issues related to life and death have the right to do as they see fit for themselves. At the same time, I believe in the fundamental principal that every human being should be able to decide those issues individually – without interference from the government or anyone else who insists that they know what is good for that individual.

If tolerance and religious freedom mean anything in this country, then every one of us needs to be able to make our own decisions on fundamental, moral issues for ourselves.

On the matter of death – the determination as to how, when and under what circumstances I embrace my own death should be mine and mine alone.

I’m Bill Meub of Rutland.

Bill Meub is a trial attorney who has a long time interest in public service.

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