A year or so ago, I wrote the post below after watching the docudrama starring Al Pacino on the most famous of "assisted suicide" advocates and practitioners.


Did anybody watch the excellently done HBO movie last Saturday, starring Al Pacino, about Jack Kevorkian, the doctor who risked his life and career and went to jail for 8+ years because of his stand on the right to die and his practice of doctor-assisted suicide?

It reminded me of that period in the early Nineties, when the New Age movement was already in full swing, and fear-based notions about death and dying, among many other things, were being challenged. Dr. Jack Kevorkian was a character from that time whose positions on the end of life many people supported, but who also inspired ambivalence. He literally was the "angel of death."

Here was a man, a doctor, who would help you kill yourself if you were suffering from excruciating, relentless pain or a horribly, debilitating "incurable" disease. "Mercy killings" they were often called. Euthanasia, more technically. Who could argue with having that option, besides the same crowd of religious phonies who gleefully decry birth control, non-marital sex, homosexuality and abortions, while letting teenagers get pregnant, persecuting gay men and women and killing abortion doctors?

I have a different argument to make regarding mercy killings, however, and let me first say that it's not about the right to end your own life. We all have that, and in reality, no one can take that away.

As "Jennie Silverman" says to "Marva" early on in the upcoming City Rock episode: "If life really is too hard, you will off yourself one day and no one will be able to stop you."

Or as a spiritual guide once said: "Every death is a suicide."

Yes, we create our own reality, and part of that means, consciously or not, we all choose the time and method of our death.

So, what's my issue with relieving those final times of pain and suffering, whether it's with euthanasia or a morphine drip? Well, as Captain Kirk said in one of the Star Trek movies, when refusing the chance to have all of his inner emotional suffering removed by a Vulcan: "I need my pain!"

Exactly. To fully benefit from a lifetime, one of the very important tasks for a soul, and for the human personality, is to experience the cause and effect of one's creations during that lifetime. Accidents and illnesses do not just happen to us. They are our creations, just like everything else in our lives. In our own personal end times, the main question our soul needs to ask itself in order to evolve is: "What did I do and how did it feel?"

"Well, let's see... I suppressed my feelings, denied the passionate expression of my sexuality and creativity, numbed myself with bad food and chemicals, distracted myself with excessive work, worrying or narcissistic ruminations, primitive beliefs and ritualized behaviors. That all led to me creating depression, dementia or physical disease as my life came to an end. Hmm... that's useful information. Maybe I'll make different choices in the next lifetime."

See, pain and suffering might be unnecessary, and unpleasant, but that doesn't mean that when we create it for ourselves, we're better off not feeling it. Pain is a message to that part of our self that is trying to learn and grow. Pain is information. Important information. It tells us how out of alignment we are with our truer, higher nature.

And that's why I had conflictual attitudes about Jack Kevorkian's crusade. Because while I supported his advocacy for the right to die, I found his position regarding pain and suffering to be no different than any other doctor in the mainstream medical establishment who offered relief from pain through any means necessary, which often meant pushing people into having unconscious deaths without reflection.

Hey, I don't like pain either, folks, but I'm doing whatever I can when I experience it to accept it as a messenger, so I can learn from it. I hear you, Captain Kirk... I need my pain, too!

1 comment:

Elder Mentor said...

I saw the movie about Dr. Kevorkian and I too, thought it was very well done. You gotta love Al Pacino...he's a method actor virtuoso!

I am intrigued by what you say in this post. I definitely think that people should have control over the way they choose to live and the way they choose to die. I also believe that it shouldn't be up to the government, or even other members in families if a loved one who is terminally ill and completely cognitively intact decides they wish to be euthanized. There was a scene in the movie when Jack makes a comment about how in our society the medical community, (and insurance and pharmaceutical companies for that matter) are trained to extend life at all costs. Except if the patient is poor, then not so much.

My take differs a bit from yours, however. While lifestyle choices can to a great extent contribute to our own eventual "suicides", I don't think that applies to all diseases. I do firmly believe though, that every disease, even dementia and Alzheimer's (my personal causes) have a lesson to teach us about what makes life worth living. And I like very much what you said about humans needing their pain. It's how we learn.

The real issue that irks me more than anything is the notion of imposing extraordinary measures like CPR, feeding tubes and other invasive procedures on patients who are already very frail and diseased. Why can't we let nature take its course? Why do so many people feel like its "playing God" if they DON'T put a feeding tube in their 90 year old demented mother who lives in a nursing home? Wouldn't the fact that she's not eating be a sign that her body is no longer in need of nutrition *because* its dying? I never understand how families think they're playing God if they don't consent to these measures. It seems contradictory...putting a tube in someone's body or hooking them up to a respirator to keep them living seems to me like that's interfering with the natural (and God-like) process of bringing one's life to a close.

Oh wow...I went on quite a tangent! :) Anyway, you wrote a very provocative post and I look forward to seeing what else you come up with in the future.


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