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Dying with dignity

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DEATH IS perhaps the one thing that scares all of us. The thought of a permanent end, of losing someone definitely, and of knowing that it is inevitable makes death a phantom that will forever haunt us.

I still remember when my aunt passed away. I was too young to understand back then, but I knew that she was terminally ill. My parents visited her in the hospital whenever they could, believing that their support would help her overcome the sickness that was slowly taking her away, like a leaf being blown away by the wind. Whenever I was brought along to visit, I saw the pain that she was going through and how her only escape from pain was seeing our smiling faces looking back at hers.

I often left her room because seeing her hurting made me hurt as well. I often wondered if there was a way to end her suffering because she did not deserve it. She left this earth fighting her illness to the very end.

Now, even though I am already 23, I still believe that my aunt did not have to endure such pain.

Then one day while I was surfing the Net, I stumbled on an article about a documentary film titled “How to Die in Oregon” by director Peter Richardson. The peculiar title made me curious and want to know more. What I read about the film made me shiver; the title of the film speaks for itself.

The film is about the “Dignity in Dying Act” in Oregon in the United States. Apparently, the law allows terminally ill patients to ask their doctors to prescribe drugs that will ultimately end their life. Certain conditions are to be considered before anything can be done for any patient seeking such a right.

Euthanasia, mercy killing, administering death to someone that will benefit from it, allowing someone a quick escape from pain—these were what came to mind after reading the details about the law. It’s just like the film by Clint Eastwood, “Million Dollar Baby” (spoiler warning), where Eastwood’s character gives a fatal dosage of adrenaline to his fallen boxer, played by Hilary Swank, to end the pain.

Just thinking about people seeking death made me question every ideal that was imbued in me all these years. For one thing, who are we to determine death? Do we have the right to give it to someone looking for it?

If such a law were prevailing in the Philippines, would Filipinos agree to it? Would a predominantly Christian country accept mercy killing?

I don’t have a firm stand on this issue as of now, and perhaps I will never have one in the coming years. However, I am not closing my door just yet. The choice of providing a dignified death to terminally ill people rather than having them endure pain is something that I’m far from understanding in my current state of mind, but I am willing to discuss it further.

Remembering my aunt, I still believe that she did not deserve the pain that she endured. But if given a chance, if time can be turned back, would my aunt seek such a right? And if she were to seek death, would we have the strength to administer the necessary drugs just to ease her pain?

Can a dignified death overcome a death in pain, which ultimately mean the same thing?

Mark Benjamin R. Marcos, 23, is a catalog writer for ABS-CBN.


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