In Philadelphia, an emergency room nurse named Barbara Mancini was arrested for providing her 93-year-old terminally ill father with a lethal dose of morphine. Her father was in hospice care, meaning that no further treatment was possible and death was imminent; the goals of hospice care are to ease pain and provide comfort for the dying patient. He was in kidney failure and apparently in a significant amount of pain.
The Social Construction of Death
The article takes a serious and hard look at our social relationship with death, pointing out rightly that "people idealize death, thinking that death is naturally peaceful, something that happens in our sleep, but the reality is that it often involves a lot of suffering." I too have had to face the reality of the loss of a beloved feline companion. One of the cats who have graced me by sharing their lives with me developed an inoperable tumor. She had been with me for over a decade, through good times and bad, and may have been the primary reason I remained sane during the worst state of my health, when I myself was near to death. Letting her go was a difficult choice; I tried to keep her comfortable and aware of love, but as time went by, her suffering became far too evident. The time to let her go was present, and I agonized as I contacted the local vet, who, however, was then out of the euthanasia drug necessary to ease the passage of this beloved furry companion. I contacted another veterinarian in an adjacent county, and, together with my then-housemate, took the beloved silver tabby to his office. The passage was quick -- too quick for me, honestly, but mercifully quick for my feline friend and companion. I burst into tears. Thinking about it as I write this, several years after the fact, my eyes well up with more. I will always be grateful to her for her condition-free love and consolation; I wish something could have been done for her to not only prolong her life, but also to cure that cancer and remove her pain. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I do not regret my decision to have her "put to sleep," but the pain of loss remains. I know I did the right thing, the just thing, the ethical thing, and it was not done callously or on the basis of anything other than love and compassion. Why we as a society have continued to refuse to allow such an act in the case of a human animal boggles the mind. This is not about "playing God," nor usurping a supposed divine prerogative; it is, rather, about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you; it is about "God is love," and it is about "he who says he loves God but hates his brother is a liar, and the truth is not in him."