Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dignity in Death

Death is not an entity or a being, death just is. It's there for you and for me and no matter how hard we try to hide it will eventually find us and take us. It's often been referred to as a thief. One that comes in the middle of the night at times and just scoops us up, takes us away never to be seen or heard from again. You might get to see the body that once housed "us" but aside from memory, we're gone from this earth.

Countless times I've heard the phrase "Death with Dignity". Well, death itself is never dignified as far as I can see it. Death is feral; untamed. For example, the person who has spent their entire life trying to live and portray a dignified existence, always the most prim and proper is sometimes found with dentures in a glass on the sink, hair a complete mess, face purple and distorted wedged between the wall and toilet bowl naked except for the clothing around their ankles. Dignified? I don't think so. You're crossing a street and the bus comes out of nowhere and the next thing you know your brains are splattered all over the road. Dignified? You're ravaged with cancer and before the second mastectomy site has a chance to fully heal the cancer grabs hold of your lungs and you're gone. Dignified? You die peacefully in your sleep yet when the EMS team gets there your clothes are torn and there are several unknown people looking at your lifeless body. Dignified? The American Heritage Dictionary defines dignity with words like esteem and poise. Death couldn't care less if we're ready for it or not it just shows up, does it's job and then others are called in to complete the process. Poise doesn't play any part at all.

Euthanasia has once again been in the mainstream thanks to the release of Dr. Kevorkian. I myself am not pro Euthanasia but it seems that if we really want to die with dignity we have to have some hand in it. Yes of course there are living wills to tell others that we don't want extreme measures to keep us unnaturally alive with the hopes of a dignified death. And yes there are certain circumstances completely out of our control when a dignified death is virtually impossible. But how far do we want to go to guarantee ourselves the dignity that is constantly being put in our faces? I don't know, it just seems to me that some things in life AND death are just not dignified at all.


MedStudentWife said...

I wonder what it is about human existance; that we want dignity so much. And why even more so at the very end when it doesn't matter anymore.

Maybe dignity is in not how one dies & looks like, but rather in some how ensuring that those who love you are allowed to celebrate your life in ways meaningful to them; so that they can take what they have of you, with dignity, in their heart.

DeathSweep said...

That is a wonderful description of what dignity can be but the mass populus needs to be educated in that direction. Terrific insight, I wish more people had it!