Monday, June 04, 2007

Murder-suicide a choice?

Murder-Suicide of an elderly couple, is that such a bad way to go? Should it be a choice that folks can make?

I’m not talking about a “choice” that is forced upon one of the pair in the murder-suicide, but if it is agreed upon by both of the individuals, should it be a choice that they can make? It is difficult to grow old and particularly growing old into worsening health. It is incredibly difficult to watch a loved one deteriorate into worsening health. It is difficult to watch a loved one decline mentally (from a medical or a neurologic condition) to a point that they are no longer who they used to be.

Should it be a choice?


Anonymous said...

Interesting blog. I was just googling Lake County and your blog came up. I'm glad you keep the voters informed and it puts a human touch on your office....I'll bookmark your blog...

Gurnee, IL.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Keller,

I read with interest the Daily Herald article about assisted suicide and applaud your question “should it be a choice”. It is refreshing to hear a public official open up a controversial subject to rational debate rather than take a simplistic polarized view.

Having just visited my aging parents again this afternoon, I’m struck by the difference in how my parents are aging versus how their parents aged and finally passed. All four of my grandparents lived fairly active lives and when their health failed, within in a matter of days, weeks or at most months, passed rather quickly. Now as my parent’s age, my father in particular suffers from numerous maladies. We have extended his life by perhaps 15 years with a successive series of surgeries, each of which could be fatal and terrify him. Though alive, he barely walks and then in great pain, and is deep enough in dementia that none of us really have a meaningful relationship anymore. He is on so many medications my brother seems to have a full time job keeping track of them and their many side effects and interactions.

Where my memories of my grandfather are warm and uplifting, I’m afraid all my kid’s good memories will be overshadowed by my father wetting his pants in a restaurant, unprovoked tirades and constant bickering between him and my mother.

Carl McVey’s comment in the Herald that he is ‘a firm believer that it’s God’s choice when we leave this world’ is stunningly simplistic from what I would expect is an otherwise intelligent man and seems supported by the Nightingale Alliance.

15 years ago, should we have skipped Dad’s first surgery because it was God’s will? When on my honeymoon 28 years ago and my wife needed her appendix removed, should I have refused because it’s ‘God’s will’? Did I violate ‘God’s will’ when I had my kids vaccinated before starting school?

Instead of taking an ‘I know God’s will’ approach, let’s have reasonable discussion on when it’s appropriate to let someone end their own life. When do they have the mental capacity to make that decision? When do medical conditions support such a decision? What’s should the process be for society to sanction such a decision.

Note that assisted suicide is not being discussed in my parent’s case. My mother will occasionally express a wish to die, but that’s depression, is being treated and runs in cycles. My father has never expressed a wish to die, and given his mental capabilities could not give meaningful consent.

FVThinker said...

I agree with the others here; it is refreshing to see a public official recognize important philosophical and ethical issues.

For quite some time, I have believed in death-with-dignity (or whatever name it might be branded with). The issue's primary complexity stems from many in society that believe that their personal god prefers for them to suffer interminably instead of dying. This I think is mythology and more destructive than productive.

Mike Burns,
Geneva, Illinois

Bill Baar said...

The problem is it doesn't sound like a bad way to go considering the prevailing failure of the profession to do much of a job treating depression or offering palliative care.

Instead we get a discussion about letting the victims of botched health escape via murder/suicide pacts.

Great, Doc, just great.