Thursday, October 8, 2009

One Giant Douche Bag & Mercy Killing

What you're about to read is a short story my younger brother recently conned me into writing for his college English course. I had 20 different topics to choose from, but as soon as I started reading his email the words "mercy killing" immediately jumped out at me. This is in no way a true story, but I wanted to share it with you fine folks anyway. Enjoy.

Oh, and by the way, the guy above is a total fucking choad. If you emulate him in any way, shape or form you deserve multiple whacks about the head and face with a sock stuffed with pool balls.
Have you ever known someone who was terminally ill? I have, and his name was Chuck. I met him while I was doing volunteer work at the local hospice, and to say he was comfortable with his situation would be an understatement. He used to joke about the timing of his illness being “priceless,” but for the life of me I could never figure out what he meant by that and could never work up enough courage to ask. Some things are better left unsaid, know what I mean? He didn’t have any family to come visit him because he had made some mistakes earlier in his life, but if he wouldn’t have offered up that little bit of information to me during one of our visits I never would have asked about that either. Anyway, if you would have asked about my stance on assisted suicide—or euthanasia for the purists of the world— before I met Chuck I would have told you it was an inhumane and disgusting way for someone to die. I would have said euthanasia was for dogs that have bitten the hands that fed them one too many times and that anyone on the pro side of killing a human being because things got a little too difficult to bear was someone who needed a stiff karate chop to the throat. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Only four jurisdictions in the entire world have laws on the books allowing the killing of people out of mercy: Oregon, Washington, the Netherlands and Belgium. Oregon and Washington have both passed laws permitting assisted suicide, while Belgium and the Netherlands allow assisted suicide as well as euthanasia. Switzerland, on the other hand, says it’s illegal to kill someone out of mercy on their soil but only if it’s done out of “selfish motives.” What those motives could be remain unclear, but one has to think they might have something to do with money.

Now, if you’re like me you’re asking yourself what the difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia could be. I mean they both garner the same result in the end, so what could possibly separate one act from another. Well, much like the fine print on your cell phone contract—you read that don’t you?—it’s all in the wording.

The easiest—and most straightforward—way to determine the difference between the two deadly acts is to look at how death occurred, or if you’re in the mood for technical jargon, the act without which death would not occur. For example, if someone administers a lethal injection or slaps a plastic bag over a dying man’s head that would technically be considered euthanasia. On the other hand if the person who is dying performs the final act, like swallowing a handful of pills or shooting themselves in the head, and another person allows it to happen then assisted suicide would be the judgment. It’s a slippery slope, but in the end it doesn’t really matter.

So what about Chuck? Well as I have said, he was quite the character. Toward the end I would sit with him and listen as he waxed philosophical about his condition. He never let himself slip into the realm of self-pity, but I could tell that somewhere inside he wished things were a little different. I mean who wouldn’t right? I know if I were lying in a hospital bed with cords and wires protruding from my body the wellspring of regrets would be overflowing, but Chuck never allowed me—or anyone else for that matter—to feel sorry for him.

One day, as we were in the midst of one of our conversations about all things trivial, he sprung The Question on me. He asked, in all sincerity, if he were to try and kill himself if I’d try to stop him. I told him yes, as a matter of fact I would, because I enjoyed his company and thought he deserved to have someone with him during this tough time. He let out a chuckle at this, touched my hand and told me I had already done enough. It struck me as odd, because to me enough was on the other side of impossible while you were lying in the bed you knew you were going to take your last breath in, but he simply winked at me and said that one word again. Enough.

After our visit ended that day I never went back. It was hard not to go, but I told myself he would have wanted it that way and I was all right with that. Chuck died in his sleep two days later. I like to think I made it easier for him to let go.

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