Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Living Will

When I hear the word euthanasia, I think of an animal in great pain and with no hope of recovery. I have a mental image of a tearful and loving - or at least a kind-hearted - owner holding the animal as a veterinarian gently injects it so as to end the animal’s suffering.

Over the years, euthanasia has become the acceptable word used to describe killing animals at shelters. In a large part because of irresponsible owners, backyard breeders, puppy mills and folks who don’t want to sterilize their pets, millions of healthy, adoptable animals are routinely killed each year. Many are still stuffed into death boxes and gassed with carbon monoxide. Others are injected. A vein on larger animals might be the injection site, but the small animals are jabbed in the heart. The animals do not die willingly. They are frightened and fight to live. Too frequently workers drag them into the death room. Is this what humans consider a pleasant or comfortable death? Then it isn’t euthanasia, is it?

But the word euthanasia helps assuage the guilt of those who contribute to pet overpopulation as well as those who are responsible for “euthanizing” them. For many shelter workers, killing the animals is the hardest part of their job and they do it as gently as possible; however, there are those who enjoy killing and are attracted to employment where they can legally abuse and kill animals.

Jack Kevorkian, or “Dr. Death,” as he was often called, was one who helped redefine the word euthanize. It is now “assisted death.” At the rate society is “progressing,” it is only a matter of time before “euthanasia” for humans will not only be accepted but required.

When my mother spent a few days in the hospital a year ago, the first nurse she met in her room began campaigning for her to sign a Living Will so Mother’s wishes would be followed instead of (the nurse glared at me) any of her children making decisions for her. I didn’t know much about a living will at the time, but it sounded fairly innocuous. I was considering filling out one for myself, until this morning when I read Dr. Albert Mohler’s blog entry “Sign Your Way to a "Good Death?" -- The Soft Slide to Euthanasia” ( posted Tuesday, October 16, 2007) and Charlotte Allen’s story at the Washington Post, “Back Off! I’m not Dead Yet” (Sunday, October 14, 2007; Page B01).

I had not seriously associated a Living Will with future potential permission to “euthanize” the one who signed the document. These articles gave me food for thought, and perhaps they will do the same for you.

Can what Dr. Mohler and Ms. Allen write about actually happen? One day in the not too distant future, it is conceivable the word euthanize could be as innocuous-sounding in terms of human death as it has become in relation to unwanted animals.

There is a story of a frog that is put into a pan of water on the stove with low heat. By the time the frog realizes the water is dangerously hot, it’s too late. As a human being, and especially as a Christian, you don’t want to wait until the water begins to boil under the pot you’re sitting in. Do some research before signing a Living Will so you can make an informed decision.


1 comment:

Vicki said...

This is heartbreaking about the animals, Jan. And I sure need to read up on what Mohler and others have written about euthanasia. Thanks for sharing on this important topic!