America’s terminally ill should have the option to escape their suffering

A hardworking, middle-aged former welder Gerardo Andres “Jerry” González died on Feb. 9, 2011. In the last years of his life, diabetes and high blood-pressure levels led to kidney failure.

It started when González suffered from an unexpected stroke in 2004. 

It was also revealed he had a herniated disc, causing excruciating pain down his back and along the sciatic nerve, the longest and largest nerve of the body. Just over a year later, he had another stroke. This time, his personality changed, as he became angrily depressed about his situation and his loss of certain memories.

He was given so many pills he lost his sense of taste. By this point, it was rare if he was actually hungry, but imagine how sad it must be to not even be able to enjoy the few things you are allowed to eat under a very bland medical diet.

Needing dialysis treatments three times a week, this very independent person in his late 40s who loved to travel was now having to depend on others to help him with the simplest daily tasks in the confines of a nursing home.

He was miserable and in so much pain. In his last years of life, he had no hopes of getting better, he felt like a burden to his family, and he and his family found themselves thinking how much more suffering can he endure?

González was my uncle, and as much as I try not to dwell on his dark last days, I wish I didn’t have to see him suffer like he did. I do not know if my Tío Jerry would have chosen to medically end his life, but he did not have the option of going out with dignity and on his own terms. 

Euthanasia is illegal in the U.S. because it requires a physician to administer the lethal medication. Physician aid in dying (PAD) is when the patient determines whether and when they will self-administer the medication, which is legal in a handful of states.

“In Macedonia, euthanasia is acceptable if the health condition is lethal and there is no way out or if you’re in a coma. The person or their family needs to sign the papers and doctors can make the decision,” freshman Biology major Stefanija Korun said about her home country’s medical policy. 

“I know it’s kind of immoral in a way, but not really if at the same time, there is no future for the person in that bed. Physically and mentally, they’re not there.”

“As a medical student, I understand why some people would like that option, but I don’t necessarily think it’s fair to ask your health provider to give you that option… It’s a really complicated issue for doctors who say ‘do no harm’.” pre-med sophomore Rachael Katz said. “I don’t think I would feel comfortable prescribing that medication [for PAD], but people should have that option, and doctors who want to give that option, should have the right to do it.”