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Shouldn't we have the freedom to leave earth with dignity?

July 27, 2023 18:29 IST
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Death is a reality of life and yet we shy away from talking about it openly, observes Aarti David.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

Are we selfish in holding on to those we love especially when they are suffering from a terminal illness?

Or if they may have become incapacitated/slipped into a coma, due to some tragic or freak accident in a twist of fate.

I have been battling with this thought for the past many months -- whether our efforts to continue keeping someone alive--are acceptable to those who are actually suffering.

In some cases, they may be aware, in many they have even lost, all conscious awareness.

For our own satisfaction we continue to pump medicines into them and keep them attached to tubes. Not for one second considering how painful it must be.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against medicine and technology that manages to bring people back from the clutches of death.

I'm just wondering about the numerous situations where the patient has reached a point of no return. When they are just holding on to a thread for survival.

I have seen too many in my own circle of family and friends, pass away in recent months.

While some lucky ones went away in their sleep or had a sudden cardiac arrest.

There have been some who have struggled with multiple visits and stay at the hospital and have had to deal with post hospice care.

The sheer dependency on others to manage their daily routine has been a traumatic experience for them and their families.

A very dear friend who was suffering from a terminal illness passed away recently. I saw her condition change rapidly over time.

From dealing with all kinds of treatment that the specialists decided for her to the numerous hospital visits to the realisation that nothing was really helping her get better.

I could see her bright and cheerful smile diminish with each passing day.

As she fought valiantly, somewhere she realised that her body was not supporting her as well as it should have. She was extremely upset and sad at being dependent on others for the smallest of things.

A well-educated, able individual was suddenly reduced to be at the mercy of others to perform the most routine tasks of a daily existence.

She hated every minute of having to seek help from others.

She questioned the meaning of this kind of life. Yet sadly, that had become her existence for the past nine months since she lost sensation in the left side of her body.

She had the will to live and bravely fought till the very end. But the last few weeks were extremely painful and traumatic for her.

She was drifting in and out of consciousness losing the bearings of her whereabouts.

I could only see her in pain and agony and the same was visible on the faces of her family who were also her caregivers.

While the doctors had stopped with their treatment, she was administered pain killers to relieve some of her pain but even those did little to provide any kind of relief.

A tube was inserted for sustenance and survival.

I'm sure this is not the life she wanted. All anyone could do was just wait and watch, as they struggled to find ways to provide comfort and alleviate her pain, but nothing really helped much.

Is this a life?

Isn't it merely just existence?

Would it have been better if we were able to discuss the unmentionable topic of passing? Of relieving her of her pain?

Could she have made that choice for herself?

Many questions have been popping up in my mind since I learnt about her passing.

She was very young and could have had a whole life ahead of her, had she been healthy and well.

But she wasn't, she was battling a terminal illness that was eroding her existence on a daily basis. Weakening her physically and breaking her spirit gradually.

As we come of age, we begin to take decisions about our life and manage every aspect of it.

So, shouldn't we be able to exercise our free will to decide what should be done, in case we reach a situation where our life is only supported by tubes and machines?

Shouldn't each individual have a living will, that details out what they would like to be done, if they were to reach such a juncture. Why is it that the family -- be it parents/partner or children -- get to decide what should be done?

Or society or religious leaders get to decide what's right or wrong?

What is right for me could be wrong for someone else. But that is all debatable, isn't it?

Shouldn't the individual whose life is in question have any part in the decision-making process?

Death is a reality of life and yet we shy away from talking about it openly.

We always push away these conversations. We never even consider euthanasia as an option.

I'm not propagating it and neither am I suggesting it to be the only option for everyone.

But my question really is, shouldn't we have the freedom to choose, to put an end to our existence and leave this earth with dignity, when there are clearly no other options available?

Would the medical fraternity be willing and able to provide this as an option in cases where the end is inevitable and near?

Would families be able to let their dear one go instead of attaching them to a machine?

We are living in an era where AI is taking the world by storm and taking over human decision making in more ways than one can imagine.

And yet, we as a people are not in a position to take critical decisions about how we live or wish to go from this world in extreme circumstances.

Isn't that ironical?

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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