Death doesn’t get a lot of attention in wellness circles, except as a warning. Premature death is portrayed as the ultimate risk factor for failing to live wisely, that is, in a manner consistent with wellness ways. (Needless to mention, I hope, is that postponing death is not even close to one of the better reasons for living wisely.)
Few wellness promoters have put a positive spin on death, to my knowledge. Until now. It must not be ignored, for the consequences of doing so can be rather dreadful. So, wellness promoters and everyone else-consider the possibilities of a REAL wellness way to die, when you’re good and ready-and when staying alive options in a decent-enough state are nil. There is, after all, a wellness option, if you plan for it and conditions are right.
Robert Green Ingersoll, at the beginning of his poignant January 9, 1882, Oration at a Child’s Grave, spoke these words:
Why should we fear that which will come to all that is? We cannot tell, we do not know, which is the greatest blessing – life or death. We cannot say that death is not a good.
That idea of death as a good has never caught on. Nobody wants to rush things, but extending life if and when it becomes unbearable or even gruesome with mortal agonies can’t be very appealing.
Now the time has come to expand the scope of REAL wellness to the final act of life, when you, in consultation with medical experts, conclude that no further jewels of joy can be picked up and treasured. Planning your own death is a key element in a new and improved concept of wellness. That is, REAL wellness.
Many if not most people die after a lingering illness, in a hospital, a hospice or at home after a period of decline and suffering, oftentimes in ways that are difficult, to say the least. The exception is dying unexpectedly from a heart attack or stroke, car or plane crash or other random fashion. For most in relatively peaceful societies, death is slow, gradual and unpleasant. In time, life becomes less and less attractive, joys diminish and miseries increase. Often pain grows worse as the body shuts down, little by little, inexorably, mercilessly.
When the prospects for a worthwhile quality of existence are judged gone forever, by you, a pain-free and peaceful end should be a REAL wellness choice, if desired.
Because of religions, however, this right does not exist, except in a few places on Earth (including all of Canada and six U.S. states and the District of Columbia.) This is largely because, as it does with almost everything else, religion poisons death.
The Heavy Hand of Religion on Dying in America
As with slavery, prohibition, stoning, arranged marriages, blasphemy prosecutions and Sunday blue laws forbidding commerce in general and enjoyment in particular on the Lord’s day, government-enforced strictures blocking right to die options are eroding. In time, bans against doctor-assisted or personally initiated suicide at one’s discretion will be considered benighted and grotesque, similar to the above noted examples of past church meddling in matters of individual choice. But, probably not in time, if you want this prerogative but don’t reside in Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Vermont, California, Washington, the District of Columbia or other U.S. jurisdictions that permit what seems a basic secular right.
Regrettably, those guided by interpretations of revelations, holy books and a variety of dogmas and creeds insist that everyone, believer or not, follow their faith-based beliefs. Only God gets to play god, say religionists like Trump’s gift to the Supreme Court, Neal Gorsuch. The newest justice even wrote a book against choice in dying, citing the Catholic mantra about the inviolability of human life.
Christians insist that their god alone gets to decide when Christians and everyone else are allowed to die. Alas, their god seems to have a nasty habit of allowing if not inflicting long periods of utter misery, torture actually, before getting around to deciding, OK, you can stop suffering now.
Arguments about death in dying, death with dignity, final exit/options are associated in America with church/state conflicts. Absent religions, there would be little or no opposition to choice for when and how to die.
People who have watched a loved one die know why choice in dying is important. To deny a peaceful end of one’s own timing seems a fundamental human right. But, it’s little wonder we’re a death-denying society, given religious fantasies. I live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. In reading the daily obituaries in the Tampa Bay Times, one might think even those whose pictures appear in the obit pages did not really die. They passed, they went off to be with their Lord and Savior, or they relocated to heaven to live with a loved one lost years ago (who presumably turned up in this imaginary but better place).
For varied opinions on legalizing or forbidding choice in dying, you might find the June 3, 2017 Letters section of the New York Times instructive. The letters refer to a May 28 series entitled, The Death and Life of John Shields.
A healthy lifestyle includes, in addition to wise choices and actions in such areas as exercise and nutrition, managing stress, using reason, seeking exuberance and embracing personal freedoms, a strong sense of personal responsibility for all that affects your life. It seems logical that all who embrace this philosophy for living well will want to apply the same level of self accountability when death approaches, if circumstances allow.
Be well, enjoy life and accept that in time we all must die. In America, we should have the right to decide, if circumstances permit, how and when we end.