By Kandace Landreneau, Louisiana Right to Life College Director
The Los Angeles Times recently published an opinion column arguing that physician assisted suicide should be legalized throughout the country and expanded to allow for patients with degenerative diseases, chronic pain and Alzheimer’s to utilize the deadly prescription. In my view, this article conjures more emotion mostly because, for me, it’s personal.
My mother was diagnosed with an inoperable and incurable brain tumor in 2016 and given six months to live. I’ll never forget the moment the doctor told us there was a tumor and that was the reason why the entire left side of her body had gone numb. Soon after she wasn’t able to walk, and I immediately moved home to become her full-time caregiver.
Needless to say this was not my mother’s plan for her life, but she refused to live by the six-month clock. She wanted to live, and cancer wasn’t going to get in her way. When we talked about radiation, chemotherapy, and moving to Houston to get treatment at MD Anderson, she said “full-court press,” meaning she wanted to be as aggressive with the cancer as possible.
We did exactly that, and instead of six months, she lived two years. She passed during the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. It was the darkest day of my life in many ways, but I’m happy to report the sun came out again. She was the greatest person I’ve ever known. And while I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I consider valuable, those two years I spent talking, laughing, crying, feeding and moving my mom from the wheelchair to the bed were the most well spent years of my life.
This is why it feels like a fuse blows out in my soul when I read articles about the legalization and expansion of physician assisted suicide. I know the pain and despair, and I know the loss of control a person experiences with a terminal diagnosis. I was there. Suffering is hard. But I also know the good that came out of it: all the jokes, long talks, advice and hand holding; the places we were able to go and the people we got to see; the things we got to do for her; hearing my mom tell me she was proud of me; and hearing the things she told me in her final days. These are things we could have missed.
My mom’s last act toward me was more powerful than words. She grabbed my hand and smiled. She breathed her last breath in my arms, in peace and comfort, and she met her maker on His terms. I’m so thankful she did not choose to accept the doctor’s timeline.
There is no scenario where suicide is the right option, especially for the sick and vulnerable. As someone who has taken care of a terminally ill loved one, I know the process and steps to end-of-life care. There is a major difference between making someone comfortable while refusing life-saving care (which is the right thing to do in many cases) and taking a drug/poison that will end their life!
We are fully capable of making someone comfortable while not interfering in their passing, and there is all the dignity in the world in dying sick. The idea that there is “death with dignity” by suicide, instead of suffering, is a lie and an insult to my mother’s fight.
Let me be clear. Whether it’s dying with cancer, Alzheimer’s, and/or dementia, your death is dignified.
Both of my grandfathers suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s when they passed away. Both depended on others for care and refused certain life-saving measures, but they did not choose to take their own lives because they knew it was not theirs to take. They had as much dignity in death as anyone else!
When I read articles talking about how there is more dignity in suicide than in suffering, I only have one thing to say. There are things worse than death, yes… and there’s also something worse than sickness… Murder.