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“What a privilege it is to experience the ‘charmed’ life of another and as a result to appreciate what is valuable in our own.”
March 31, 2012 12:42 PM   Subscribe

After 61 years of marriage, Charles D. Snelling killed his Alzheimer's-stricken wife before turning a gun on himself. Months before, in response to a David Brooks column, he submitted a 5,000-word personal essay where he reminisced on his life, his marriage, his wife's disease and his role as a caretaker.
posted by falameufilho (143 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
this is tragic and disturbing. What pain he must have been in.
posted by sweetkid at 12:48 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article says, "In the statement, the Snelling family said Mr. Snelling had acted “out of deep devotion and profound love.”" but doesn't elaborate.

This seems like a thoughtful choice to end the suffering of someone he loved, and to end his own. Although of course it could be something else.
posted by latkes at 12:54 PM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


In the statement, the Snelling family said Mr. Snelling had acted “out of deep devotion and profound love.”

Assuming I lack a better understanding of the situation than their family, I find it to be the opposite of tragic and disturbing.
posted by cmoj at 12:56 PM on March 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


this is tragic and disturbing. What pain he must have been in.

I'm not sure I'd use that word myself - the essay quoted in that NY Times article has him saying “It’s not noble, it’s not sacrificial and it’s not painful.”

What's painful and tragic for me is that I worry that he may have killed himself at least in part to avoid being arrested, tried, and probably imprisoned for the "murder" of his wife. That, to me, is entirely understandable, but also a shame.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:00 PM on March 31, 2012 [49 favorites]


It was a sweet essay:

I was collecting antique wooden boats when I got out one of the old Packard’s that I had saved from my courting days and had stored in a barn. It was a 1937 12-cylinder Packard convertible coupe, spare wheels on the side, with a rumble seat and golf bag doors and a luggage rack on the back. What are you going to do with that Packard, my sweetie asked. “Why, I’m going to restore it,” I answered. Well, said Adrienne, “you can have antique boats and a wife, or you can have antique cars and a wife, or you can have antique cars and antique boats, but what you can’t have is antique cars and antique boats and a wife!” The Packard went away.

I'm not quite sure how to say this, but I hope that he killed himself because he couldn't face life alone, not because he was afraid of being prosecuted for ending his wife's suffering.
posted by Forktine at 1:00 PM on March 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


To be clear, it sounds like doing this was a decision that they had made together and already told their children about years ago:
“As you know I have Alzheimer’s. It is not a nice disease. So far I have held up pretty well. Dad and I are still having a pretty good life. There is no doubt where my sickness will end up for me,” Adrienne wrote in the Nov. 22, 2009, letter.

She went on: “All of our lives, Dad and I have talked over our end of life beliefs. We are both in agreement that neither one of us wants to live after all reasonable hope for a good life is over. . . . We have had such a great life together and with all of you.”
posted by strangely stunted trees at 1:04 PM on March 31, 2012 [38 favorites]


Oh geez -- the bit quoted by strangely stunted trees.

Sometimes, the most beautiful bits of love are the ones that hurt the goddamned most.
posted by meese at 1:10 PM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not quite sure how to say this, but I hope that he killed himself because he couldn't face life alone, not because he was afraid of being prosecuted for ending his wife's suffering.

It isn't clear to you that this was about love, not law?
posted by incessant at 1:14 PM on March 31, 2012


It's a sad and tragic thing to do, but in a way, I can see why Mr. Snelling did it: it really was out of love --- love of his wife, and not wanting to see her suffer the terrible loss of selfhood that Alzheimer's causes; love of all they'd shared together, and a future of watching that life disintegrate, until his beloved wife was nothing but a shell. And yes, he must have felt that he'd rather die himself than live without her.
posted by easily confused at 1:18 PM on March 31, 2012


It isn't clear to you that this was about love, not law?

Huh? It's clear to me that he killed her out of love (especially when I see the quote two comments above). What isn't clear to me is why he killed himself -- did he do it because he couldn't face life without his beloved wife, or because he was afraid of having to face a possible criminal investigation, prosecution, etc, for what was an act of mercy but not in the eyes of the state?
posted by Forktine at 1:18 PM on March 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


It isn't clear to you that this was about love, not law?

Clear? No, definitely not clear. That he ended her life is clearly and obviously love. That he ended his own may not have been exclusively the same - that's a possibility, but by no means clear.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:19 PM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


This reminded me, oddly enough, of what I'd read about James Tiptree Jr's personal life. All I can find right now is this quote from wikipedia,

On May 19, 1987, at age 71, Sheldon took the life of her 84-year-old, nearly-blind husband and then took her own. They were found dead, hand-in-hand in bed, in their Virginia home.[5]

but where I'd read about it talked more about how it had been triggered by her husband's increasing ill health and circumstances and how much they'd been in love.

Knowing another friend whose stepfather hung himself within 3 months of her mother's passing away, its probably more common than we know when the relationship is good and true and lasted a long long time into old age. And it isn't hard to understand.
posted by infini at 1:19 PM on March 31, 2012


I only wish he could have used a heavy dose of barbiturates or the like to avoid the mess. But who knows what options he had? I may have done the same. If it's as it appears, I can't condemn him at all.
posted by Red Loop at 1:21 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


What I mean is, as I now see the debate on clarity and motives, that its one thing if a teenybopper sings "I can't live if living is without you" but another if a couple meets in WW2 where he's a British spy who is hiding out in an Italian woman's home while her husband has been a PoW and she runs away with him because there's no divorce and has to leave her twin daughters behind. Some 40 or 50 years later, why would you want to try and carry on without that life you have lived together, and for what, another 5 or 10 years as a geriatric?
posted by infini at 1:24 PM on March 31, 2012


We can put down our pets humanely, but not those that we love the most. The tragic part is that he had to use a gun. He should have been able, with the help of a physician and maybe some counseling, to make the decision to end their lives and follow through with everything in order that didn't end up with someone finding their blood spattered remains.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 1:29 PM on March 31, 2012 [73 favorites]


Grumpy old geek: "We can put down our pets humanely, but not those that we love the most. The tragic part is that he had to use a gun. He should have been able, with the help of a physician and maybe some counseling, to make the decision to end their lives and follow through with everything in order that didn't end up with someone finding their blood spattered remains."

In a few other places in the world, that would be possible, but not in most. Which is a tragedy in and of itself. For a country that constantly crows about personal freedom, we sure do like to prevent people from exercising it.
posted by wierdo at 1:39 PM on March 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh God oh God oh God.

I can't imagine the agony of this man's last few hours, having to kill the person he loved most, and then ending his own life so violently. How horrendous. And how tragic that there were not more accessible, compassionate and legal alternatives for either of them at the end. There are too many variables for me to make judgements about choices made here, but I can't help wondering if more options would have meant the Snelling's children might only be dealing with the loss of one parent instead of the shocking loss of two.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:42 PM on March 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


If the best that our medical system has to offer us in the end leads here, and to know-nothing politicians bickering over it at that, then what have we accomplished with all our technology? Blah blah "death panels", here's a awful, bittersweet even dose of real life. RIP to them both.
posted by Stoatfarm at 1:43 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


.
.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:44 PM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is so sad. I don't know what made him do this, but it is not easy being a caregiver, even if you think it is your turn. My father had alzheimer's and my mom wanted him at home, but it became impossible to care for him on her own, even with help. Hospice recommended a assisted care facility, and my mom had a lot of guilt about moving him there, but their visits became about being with each other and not about bathing or going to the toilet or trying to move about. I think letting your partner move out your house is a huge step many don't want to take, but I think, at least for my parents, it allowed them to have some moments of joy together even with my father's Alzheimer''s.

Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer's is so stressful and all-encompassing and there is so much resistance to asking for help (if you can afford it) or problems getting help (if you can't afford it), that I can see this awful event repeating itself as the Alzheimer's epidemic gets worse.

This is so tragic for their family.
posted by katinka-katinka at 1:44 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


.
.
posted by rtha at 1:47 PM on March 31, 2012


It's surprised by my own feelings about this, but I'm pretty uncomfortable about this idea of killing your suffering loved one. I absolutely support assisted suicide when it's clear the person involved consents (or more rightly, is the one asking for it). And I oppose heroic measures to keep someone alive who would not be without extreme interventions. And without question, I do not think those who have to make these decisions should be criminally prosecuted.

But I'm not sure I do think killing someone with a debilitating, miserable disease is right. I certainly wouldn't want to be a doctor put in the position of supporting someone to make this happen.

I know I'm in a minority, but I've never wanted to make this choice for a pet even. I think suffering is terrible, but it is also part of life. I wouldn't want to make a choice for someone else about how much suffering is too much.

Alzheimers is degenerative. It will eventually kill you without intervention. Maybe I'd feel different about something that could leave you in a perpetual state of unrelieved misery.
posted by latkes at 1:51 PM on March 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Imagine a world where if someone is dead-set on ending their own life, they were free to tell their loved ones. Spend time with them. Say their goodbyes. And end their lives in dignity and without pain.

Isn't this reason enough for assisted suicide?
posted by Malice at 1:58 PM on March 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


I sort of agree with latkes. Alzheimer's is an awful disease, but if someone's child or sibling was in a car accident and had brain damage and had about 10 years left to live, would we be thinking we should have a humane way of ending their life? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not.

I do know that after my dad died, I was really hurt by people who said "oh, it must be a huge relief," because it wasn't a huge relief at all.

I really think we have to find a way to provide care and assistance to caregivers so they aren't overwhelmed and totally depressed and making choices like this.
posted by katinka-katinka at 1:58 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, nothing in life is perpetual.

It seems like they had many conversations about how they would want their lives (or deaths) to go in the event of debilitating illness, and perhaps this was something they considered.

Considering the feelings I've had over pets I've had to put down over the years, I hope I never ever have to make this kind of decision for a person. I still can't think about having to put down Linus (my cat) - who went from old and frail to unable to use his hind legs or control his bladder in a matter of hours - without nearly losing it. It's a terrible thing to have to contemplate, let alone do.
posted by rtha at 1:59 PM on March 31, 2012


I think suffering is terrible, but it is also part of life. I wouldn't want to make a choice for someone else about how much suffering is too much.

Spend a couple of years wiping your mother's ass and listening to her scream for people long dead and seeing her not recognize her only child and watch her being terrified at night because the house she's lived in for 35 years is a strange and unfamiliar place and then get back to me on how much suffering is too much.

I was fortunate in that we were able to put mom in a long-term care facility set up specifically for people with Alzheimer's and senile dementia. Even with insurance and good estate planning, it's going to drain her assets and my assets to ensure her continued care.

In a perfect world, she'd have been able to create an advance directive specifying end-of-life instructions. I'd have been able to tell her I love her one last time while she still recognized me. And she'd have had the dignity to control her own destiny and push the plunger herself, surrounded by friends and family, knowing that she was safe and loved until the very end.

And should she have slipped past that point of being able to push that plunger, I'd have done it. With no misgivings. With no regrets. With no guilt. Without losing a wink of sleep.

Because as it stands right now, even with the best care available, she is on an island, alone, scared, helpless, and the fog is rolling in, and it is relentless, it will not stop until it extinguishes her and erases everything and everyone from what's left of her mind. It is not life. It is not death. It is torture. Ceaseless torture.

And I would end her suffering if I could, because I am certain that that is what she would want, and I would not feel conflicted about it whatsoever.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:12 PM on March 31, 2012 [216 favorites]


Hey BitterOldPunk and others who found my comment hurtful or offensive:

I apologize for the way I said what I said above. Thinking more, what I am uncomfortable about is my own role in this decision. As I said, I'd certainly never support criminal prosecution for people who are in this position. And given the uniqueness of every relationship and every individual, I do not judge other people's choices about this. I certainly can't know what conversations people had, and I can't know the people involved the way their closest loved ones do. I was responding to my own discomfort with the idea of being in this position. Clearly there's a range in how each of us would deal with this and of course it's true that I can't know exactly how even I would respond given different circumstances.
posted by latkes at 2:23 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is an old story, older than Philemon and Baucis. I'm glad they wrote the reassuring letter to the kids -- it would be natural for them to feel guilty about it.
posted by michaelh at 2:24 PM on March 31, 2012


.
.

I also wish there had been a more gentle and dignified way for them to choose to end their lives together. No doubt Mr. Snelling gave it a lot of thought, but I hate to think of him being driven to use the same method that any insane estranged husband could use.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:28 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


No doubt Mr. Snelling gave it a lot of thought, but I hate to think of him being driven to use the same method that any insane estranged husband could use.

Overdosing can go wrong, poisons cause pain, hanging a little bit of both. Guns seem like the ideal option for people wanting to make it fast and as painless as possible. Instant death. Looks brutal to those left behind but is relatively peaceful to those conducting the suicide.

Someone close to me killed himself this way in December. I've spent a lot of time thinking (and grieving) about it. I really would give anything to have been able to say goodbye, if it was going to happen no matter what anyone said.
posted by Malice at 2:32 PM on March 31, 2012


I don't know that he gave it a lot of thought. I think he may have been totally sleep deprived, depressed and had a gun.
posted by katinka-katinka at 2:33 PM on March 31, 2012


Assuming I lack a better understanding of the situation than their family, I find it to be the opposite of tragic and disturbing.

Well, he committed murder with a gun, and then he committed suicide with a gun. No matter how you look at it, considering the aftermath of a violent death is deeply disturbing. It's also disturbing that he felt he had no option left but to go this route. My grandmother died recently after living her last years in a demented state, leaving my parents at the end of their wits and stamina trying to care for her, because social services deemed my grandmother in good enough health to live independently.

It's disturbing to think about the amount of emotional pain and suffering my own parents went through, let alone a man caring for his own wife. In fact, I would have to assume that Snelling had the financial resources to seek professional care for his wife, which makes her murder even more disturbing, and Snelling's decision more tragic.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:35 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, katinka-katinka, but I think you're erasing Adrienne Snelling's agency in this, and the amount of thought that both Snellings put into the decision, by describing it as the decision of an overwhelmed caretaker, when this was her clearly expressed will as well, and was a decision that they made and told their family about years ago.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:36 PM on March 31, 2012 [13 favorites]


I watched my grandmother succumb to Alzheimer's. It's hell for everyone. I still have intrusive thoughts from the time I spent taking care of her before she was "officially" diagnosed. It really was the most hellish two years of my life. I don't think my family understands, or if they do we are all too afraid to talk about it.

My greatest fear is that I'll get Alzheimer's. If I do, I'll kill myself before I'm too far gone or I'll pay to have myself killed.

It really is the most awful degenerative disease a human can suffer from. It eats your soul from the inside out until you are a zombie.
posted by roboton666 at 2:38 PM on March 31, 2012 [15 favorites]


I don't know that he gave it a lot of thought. I think he may have been totally sleep deprived, depressed and had a gun.

Except for the part where he and his wife had clearly discussed this years ago.

I'm sure he was sleep deprived and depressed. That doesn't mean the suffering of Alzheimer's isn't torture he felt his wife should no longer endure.
posted by emjaybee at 2:39 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Parenthetically, as someone who went to Mr. Snelling's school, I am slightly disturbed by the reference to the school seal and motto. Prep schools are usually associated with suicides and other tragic goings-on in pop culture. Also, it's not the kind of place where you learn how to take care of other people. In this context, I personally find its invocation sinister.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:39 PM on March 31, 2012


I have totally missed how this was his wife's decision. I did see the letter he wrote to the NYT previously about how it was his turn to take care of her, but I did not realize they planned to kill themselves.
posted by katinka-katinka at 2:41 PM on March 31, 2012


Can someone point me to the bit where they discussed this?
posted by katinka-katinka at 2:45 PM on March 31, 2012


We have the right to choose how to live our lives; we should have the right to choose how to end it.
posted by twidget at 2:48 PM on March 31, 2012


I've never wanted to make this choice for a pet even.

I can totally understand this. But there are a lot of very clear circumstances - a hamstrung horse, a dog in a road traffic accident - where the suffering and fear is overwhelming and this creature is totally dependent on you for mercy and you are standing there wishing you had a shotgun and literally begging the vet "hurry, hurry, hurry." I actually don't have a very hard time extrapolating this to my spouse or myself but perhaps it's easier for me as my husband and I have discussed this and are in accord.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:53 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can someone point me to the bit where they discussed this?

See my comment here and the Washington Post article ("Former MWAA chief and wife with Alzheimer’s ‘deliberate’ about end-of-life plans, daughter says") I link to in it.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:58 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


My father died last year and I am totally unashamed to say I am relieved.

He was 90 years old and still living alone and independently even though an accident two years earlier required him to use a walker. He resisted my advice to use some of the available services for the retired and disabled like a Runabout Bus that he just didn't want to make day-before reservations for. He did expect me, his sole heir, to drive the 180 miles every weekend to help get him around, until my car broke down (you might say it died of old age), and then, somehow, he got by for over a year and a half until one day, crossing the major LA street his apartment building was on to get to the bus stop, he was hit by a car.

He was conscious and semi-lucid in spite of heavy pain medication long enough for me to rent a good car, drive down and talk to him a couple times. We resolved some but not nearly all of our old differences. Meanwhile, social workers talked to him about the need for him to give up his apartment and go into a nursing home due to the permanent damage, something he vowed he'd never do. A few days later his damaged kidneys failed, he went into a coma, and literally hours after I had 'that talk' with his doctors about a DNR order, his heart just slowed to a stop. His cardiologist declared it a rare occurance, but I had to believe he just decided to let it end.

I admire some things about my father and others I am ashamed of, but the way he seemed to choose to die had to be in the first category. Myself, alone and in below-average health with high likelihood of it getting worse at any time, worry most about not being able to choose for myself. I've mentioned before that I have no expectations of Life After Death but genuinely fear an extended period of Living Death filled with pain and hopelessness. I've also commented before that the only reason I'd ever acquire a gun is for the specific purpose of killing someone (because that is what they are best at doing), but am now considering getting one to keep as an alternative for an "advance directive".

This sick society will never figure out the value of life until we learn how to die.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:02 PM on March 31, 2012 [13 favorites]


Thank you for the link to the post article. I'm going to step out of this because while I think Alzheimer's is awful disease, it is a little bit too close to home and I don't think it steals your soul or life is never worth living with it. I will stick with thinking we need to come up with better ways of thinking about Alzheimer's and dementia and helping caregivers. I also asked my husband not to kill me and/or himself if I develop Alzheimer's and to feel free to move me anywhere I need to be.
posted by katinka-katinka at 3:05 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


The day is coming when this article will reappear, except Sir Terry Pratchett's name will be on it.

He may be ready for that day. I am not.
posted by darksasami at 3:08 PM on March 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


darksasami, I thought of that, and promptly tried not to think of it again. (He's at least two books away -- he promised us -- )
posted by Countess Elena at 3:12 PM on March 31, 2012


Darkasami - he's signed documents with Dignitas and I expect if he does go, by his own hand, it will be there.


(This story, and the thousands of others like it, are why I can't understand the opposition to organisations that facilitate assisted suicide.)
posted by subbes at 3:13 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine the agony of this man's last few hours, having to kill the person he loved most, and then ending his own life so violently.

I’m not so sure. They had a long time to think about it. It may not have been anything terrible at all.
posted by bongo_x at 3:14 PM on March 31, 2012


Good call, BitterOldPunk. Three of four grandparents were afflicted with dementia, two specifically diagnosed with Alzheimers at the end of their lives. My maternal grandfather, always the sweetest man, started hitting his wife, he got so frustrated because he knew something was happening to him, and it was terrifying. For both of them.

I think it's possible everyone is misinterpreting the motive here. I realize he wrote in the essay that it was his duty and pleasure to care for his wife - but I suspect he was very, very tired, realized it was never going to get better, only worse, and simply saw this as a preferable option for both of them. He might have believed it's what she would have chosen - and, knowing her better than anyone else on earth, may well have been right about that. Bottom line, I see this more as an act of desperation than of love.
posted by kgasmart at 3:21 PM on March 31, 2012


Having recently lost a grandfather to Alzheimers, after years of watching him slip away physically and mentally by degrees, this hits close to home. In opposition to many comments above, I would like to offer the following:

Those who suffer from Alzheimers are not zombies, and such language is uncalled for and dehumanizing. Those who suffer from Alzheimers have just as much a right to life and compassionate care as anyone. This is not to say that their lives should be artificially prolonged; but palliative care and pain relief only is not murder.

Life is not something to cling to. But killing someone else, even a loved one, even with the most loving of intentions, is wrong.

Valuing someone's life based on their ability to control their behavior, or on their cognitive abilities, is wrong. Should we also kill children or adults with profound autism?

Finally, long term care, in America, is a totally messed up system. Can't speak for the rest of the world. We as a society should ensure that no family drains its resources in order to provide decent care for their elders. We should ensure that free or affordable long term care, and, ultimately, hospice care, is provided for all, not just those who buy (expensive, full of loopholes) long term care insurance. No one should feel as if solo care-taking is the only loving option. The Incidental Economist (medical policy wonk blog) has a lot to say on this topic.

In conclusion: Elvis Costello - Veronica.
posted by Wavelet at 3:57 PM on March 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


Life is not something to cling to. But killing someone else, even a loved one, even with the most loving of intentions, is wrong.

Why?
posted by Avenger at 4:00 PM on March 31, 2012 [14 favorites]


Sometimes compassionate care means helping someone to end their suffering.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 4:09 PM on March 31, 2012 [14 favorites]


>Those who suffer from Alzheimers have just as much a right to life and compassionate care as anyone.

Those two things can be mutually exclusive. When your range of possible future experiences is limited to confusion, horror, and indignity, compassionate care means an end to suffering.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:10 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Life is not something to cling to. But killing someone else, even a loved one, even with the most loving of intentions, is wrong.

I couldn't disagree more. There are times, for both animals and humans, when death is the merciful option. And this isn't a case of him waking up one day and deciding to off his wife -- from the article above, they had discussed it years in advance, and had agreed about the point at which for them life was not worth living. There is an irony that he was a lifetime supporter of the political party that fights hardest against "death with dignity" proposals, but we all have interesting inconsistencies in our lives.
posted by Forktine at 4:12 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Life is not something to cling to. But killing someone else, even a loved one, even with the most loving of intentions, is wrong.

I'm going to second a "why" on this. I think every situation is subjective.
posted by Malice at 4:24 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


. .
posted by Anitanola at 4:27 PM on March 31, 2012


>When your range of possible future experiences is limited to confusion, horror, and indignity, compassionate care means an end to suffering.

>There are times, for both animals and humans, when death is the merciful option.

To decide that a human life must end is simply not a choice that we can make. If we really believe that we can make that choice for another, the consequences are monstrous. In the communities I am involved with, there are children with autism Some of the "lower functioning" children may never be toilet trained, will sometimes lash out at caregivers, will never go to college or hold down a job or whatever else it takes not to live a life limited to "confusion, horror, and indignity," by some people's standards. Should we kill them? If not, why not?
posted by Wavelet at 4:30 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


What saddens me most is that here's a man who had all the economic resources he could possibly need to support him & his wife, and it still wasn't enough to support him. How are any of the rest of us going to cope?

Alzheimer's is a draining illness for everyone involved - patient, family, paid caregivers. Assisted suicide might make sense for some people & families, but the idea that his life was also unworthy of living makes me sad in a not-romantic way.

We need to figure out a way to engage elders in the world around them at this newly common stage of life, otherwise why are we forcing their bodies to stay alive to be "modern medical miracles"?
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 4:35 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you can't understand that there is a basic difference between "Human Life" and simply "Life" then just line up behind the Anti-Abortion Activists, because it's the same arguments. Society constantly makes justifications for the ending of Human Lives, and most of the commonly accepted ones have weaker moral standing than this. There is the justifiable fear of a 'slippery slope' that suggests if advanced Alzheimer's is justification for euthanasia, then severe mental handicaps may become so too. But I believe that when a 'slippery slope' is identified, it is extremely easy to avoid (wearing shoes with cleats is always important when traipsing around difficult moral landscapes).

There is also that cringingly self-serving moral judgement/assumption that those who attempt suicide and fail are 'just crying out for attention/affection'.

When I hear the term "lower functioning", I think of someone who does a crappy job of dealing with Life and Death (usually avoiding dealing with it by handing the decisions off to governments and churches). So, yeah, that's most of us. All evidence shows to me that Mr. Snelling was very much a "higher functioning" human being.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:38 PM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


. . . Should we kill them? If not, why not?

No, "we" should not; but I think this not for their own sakes, but because there is no human society that could be trusted with so much power to choose whose life is worth preserving and whose is not. That decision should be left to people themselves, and next to that, to their families.

As long as people are born with failing flesh, there will be unhappy cases like this, but I think there could be a whole hell of a lot fewer.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:41 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree it's a shame that he had to do this with a gun. It's also a shame that only those similarly situated who have extensive resources can afford an international option such as Dignitas. The Snellings deserved a more peaceful conclusion to their marriage and their lives.

..
posted by smirkette at 4:42 PM on March 31, 2012


What saddens me most is that here's a man who had all the economic resources he could possibly need to support him & his wife, and it still wasn't enough to support him. How are any of the rest of us going to cope?

If it's supposed to be a matter of "economic resources", then I'm going to re-emphasize my previous statement that this is a sick society we live in.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:44 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


To decide that a human life must end is simply not a choice that we can make.

Why pretend that this couple didn't have many, many discussions about this? When one person says "If [foo], then please [bar]" and their love says "Okay, you too me," why isn't that part of the metric of compassionate, humane care?
posted by rtha at 4:46 PM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


Long term care for my son's great grandmother cost almost twice what we make per year. She didn't know who we were. She became angry and hurtful, she twice tried to kill herself, and her children insisted on heroic measures to bring her back both times. She begged for us to let her die. She wasn't, and this is important, happy, and did not want to live. Assisted suicide would have been the kindest option we could have offered her, and it wasn't a legal option anywhere but Switzerland, and she was too far gone at that point to sign legal forms.

If she hadn't passed when she did, we would have had to sell our house, go into debt, and tell my son that he couldn't go to college, all because some people are afraid of death and transfer that fear to public policy.

I live in fear that some day, someone afraid of death will force me to live the last few years that we forced her to live, and it terrifies me.
posted by dejah420 at 4:52 PM on March 31, 2012 [37 favorites]


I feel terrible for this couple and the pain they had to go through, but I know I would never be able to do the same thing. I have to let chance or nature or God decide when it's time for someone to die. Besides, part of the deal I made was for better or for worse.
posted by freakazoid at 4:53 PM on March 31, 2012


But if someone tells me they want to die, that's different. I would do anything I could to help them.
posted by freakazoid at 4:56 PM on March 31, 2012


My mother has Alzheimers.

I completely understand this.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:05 PM on March 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Euthanasia in the United States is something medical professionals do, but they call it other things in order to avoid liability. Managing symptoms and minimizing pain, knowing that the medication they are using will eventually stop breathing.

What's dumb is that we make it quasi-illegal, so it is a challenge for doctors and nurses to talk openly with families about their options. Instead, they have to kind of suss the family out that they're ok with it, and even then, perhaps the doctor doesn't administer the final dose, putting the risk on a nurse instead (with consent on the nurse's part).

I've had friends and family who fought for life to the end, and the ones who were ready for euthanasia were having the most miserable and terminal experiences, and had been for a long time.

There are illnesses worse than death and I hope my friends and relatives will have the strength to see past "sanctity of life" if it's my time to go.
posted by zippy at 5:05 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Valuing someone's life based on their ability to control their behavior, or on their cognitive abilities, is wrong. Should we also kill children or adults with profound autism?

The article is about a terminal illness, and the decision of a couple to deal with that.
posted by zippy at 5:11 PM on March 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


When my grandmother died from Alzheimer's, she was surrounded by myself, my mom and two of my cousins, and people were holding her hands. When my father died, my brothers and mother were there and hospice was telling us what was happening physically and the last thing he heard was that we loved him, after a round of you are my sunshine. (tho I'm told he probably did not hear us at all). I am hopeful these exits were peaceful.

I am not against assisted suicide. I question whether you can plan this so far in advance and say when I don't know this, kill me. It's not clear to me what my dad knew or not, and I don't think even the doctors can say. He did lose his speech, and was unable to communicate anything like this.

That people will Alzheimer's get angry and confused is a given; that is is a constant horror story is not my experience. I think people's attachment to their homes above all else is odd, why wouldn't you want to leave your home and be taken care of (as in this case, it seems like the money wasn't an issue). I really will never understand asking your spouse to shoot you sometime in the future, when you are unable to consent.
posted by katinka-katinka at 5:14 PM on March 31, 2012


That people will Alzheimer's get angry and confused is a given; that is is a constant horror story is not my experience.

My experience, in the US (and from decades ago, I hope it's better now) is this: if you get Alzheimers, you will eventually go bankrupt. If you do not sign over your estate to a nursing home early on, you will get placed at a nursing home not of your choosing, and your care will be paid by ... Medicaid, I think. This nursing home will smell of urine, as it is understaffed and can't change patiets' adult diapers and bedding often enough. You will spend most of your day in a hospital bed, miserable if you aren't delirious, and probably miserable if you are, too.

If you have money or foresight, you may avoid this scenario. If you have the bad/good luck to die early, you may avoid it. However, if it plays out as I've seen it for two good friends, this scenario can also happen.
posted by zippy at 5:18 PM on March 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


My experience, in the US (and from decades ago, I hope it's better now) is this: if you get Alzheimers, you will eventually go bankrupt

I guess I don't see why people care if they die with zero dollars.


This nursing home will smell of urine, as it is understaffed and can't change patiets' adult diapers and bedding often enough. You will spend most of your day in a hospital bed, miserable if you aren't delirious, and probably miserable if you are, too.


I think nursing homes have gotten better in the last 30 years, and continue to do so.

My grandmother had to use up all her money before medicaid kicked in, this was in the mid to late 90s, but the nursing home was clean. She spent a lot of time in her room. The place my dad was in (after reaching out for palliative care through hospice), was great. They got him up every day, dressed and out of his room, and my mom was able to spend time with him eating/feeding lunch. My father did have long term care insurance, but only lived about 4 months after going into the nursing home, when he suddenly quit eating. i wish he had gone in earlier, for my mom's mental and physical health, but she did not want him to leave home, even tho it was frustrating and overwhelming.
posted by katinka-katinka at 5:27 PM on March 31, 2012


A selfish man murdered his wife and then committed suicide to escape his responsibilities. Sorry to rain on the pity parade, but none of this is remotely excusable. Let's not hold him up as a hero just yet.

The essay was nicely written though; no grammatical errors and a clear train of thought. I bet he worked on it a long time to make it tug at the heartstrings just right.

..
posted by Renoroc at 5:35 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think nursing homes have gotten better in the last 30 years, and continue to do so.

I don't know what they were like 30 years ago, but my recent experience was that the nicest ones I could find proved to be the most nightmarish sort of human storage.

I think people's attachment to their homes above all else is odd, why wouldn't you want to leave your home and be taken care of (as in this case, it seems like the money wasn't an issue).

Perhaps reframing the question as 'why wouldn't you want to give up every vestige of privacy and self-agency to go live among strangers, many of whom are demented, despairing, and/or waiting to die' will make people's attachment to their homes seem less odd.

I really will never understand asking your spouse to shoot you sometime in the future, when you are unable to consent.

I hope you're right that you'll never understand it. May we all be fortunate enough to never have to come to that understanding. May we all also respect people who have to face more difficult choices.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:45 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I saw Alzheimer's first hand. It destroys what makes a person human. They become a jumbled mess, the "there" at the center of who they are fades into that jumble until there is nothing but jumbled actions, what made my grandmother who she was was long gone before her body gave out.

It was treacherous, and to me the closest word I have to describe her was that she was a zombie. It wasnt her anymore. It was her memories on repeated anxious loops, but she was not human anymore.

It hurt like hell to watch, and it hurts like hell this disease took the sweetest lady you never knew away, and left a complete wreck of her life in the place she used to be.

I stand by my words. You can try to shame me into making it into less than it was so as to preserve your illusion that a raw shitty hell can't exist in this wonderful first-world we live in, but I won't let you.

Alzheimers made my grandmother look like a zombie to me. I'm mad at Alzheimer's. It took my nanny away.
posted by roboton666 at 5:48 PM on March 31, 2012 [14 favorites]


I guess I don't see why people care if they die with zero dollars.

They may have a surviving spouse, for one thing. And also, what people in this thread have said about exhausting their resources after their family member has run out of money. It's not so neat as just having an empty bank account the day you die.
posted by BibiRose at 5:53 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I really will never understand asking your spouse to shoot you sometime in the future, when you are unable to consent.

Your understanding is not required.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:53 PM on March 31, 2012 [16 favorites]


Maybe zombie is the wrong word. I remember the last time I saw her before she died that she cracked a wicked funny joke about our new baby, even though she had no idea who anyone was.
posted by roboton666 at 5:57 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interesting story. Yes, our society reduced their dignity, by not listening to Dr. Jack Kevorkian or watching other doctors, but they found a way to maintain some dignity.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:05 PM on March 31, 2012


There's a significantly non-zero chance that this slow death will be in my cards. Watching my father's dementia (diagnosed at the age of 60 - SIXTY!) has deeply affected me.

I want to make it clear, here, to people randomly on the Internet, in case any of you are one day in a position to deal with me, or if someone dealing with me in the future reads this after a Google: LET ME GO.

If I didn't manage to go by my own hand, someone do it for me. I want to die before my life gets bad. I want to go before I end up empty and terrified of everything, unable to recognize the people I love, before they must bear the pain of seeing what used to be me but isn't any more.

And now I have to remove this thread from my Recent Activity before my night gets any more ruined.
posted by subbes at 6:31 PM on March 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


I can't say the Snelling did the right thing, but I can understand where he was coming from. My once strong and independent father has Alzheimer's and he's not the same person I knew. He loved riding motorcycles, hiking and walking, and listening to blues music. He still likes listening to the blues, but he can't walk around the neighborhood without getting lost and he can't ride his bike because he'd just get lost faster farther away. It is heartbreaking for my brother and I to watch.

I wasn't very close with my old man the past 22 years and my family isn't really close in general. But I was hoping to reconcile with the old man and then be able to talk to him about his life. But now he doesn't really know. There are huge pockets of things that are missing. Huge pockets of memories that are convoluted. He was a bright and independent guy that lived a very rich life. But now he doesn't remember who I am. When he remembers, he notices that I'm bald like he is because his memory of me is back when I had this glorious head of hair. Every time I see him, he asks me about when I went bald. Just like he'll ask how the drive was from California and if there was any snow. Even if I see him in August. The memory of his son in California is the 20 year old version of me, not the current version.

I'm worried about what happens to me if I get Alzheimer's. I'm a lot like my old man in the sense I love my independence and sometimes just getting on the road and seeing what's out there. What happens when I can't remember things? Will my quality of life of just sitting on in a chair watching TV be enough? My brother and I have already discussed our pact to do the other one in once we decide the other one just isn't there anymore. Hopefully in the 30 or so years before that happens to either of us there are more humane methods the will keep the compassionate one out of jail.

I think the end-of-life-choice issue we're discussing here will be the next big social issue alongside abortion and gay marriage. Especially as the baby boomer generation starts to get old and reach their end of life.

And my philosophy is similar with the end of life as it is to the beginning of life. I recognize that some people will never think it is morally or ethically right for someone to end their own or a loved-one's life. But I don't want there being laws that forbid it in all cases. Euthanasia should be like abortion: safe, legal and rare.

One thing about the film Soylent Green was the scene toward the end where Edward G Robinson's character seeks out assisted suicide at a facility. He went on his own accord not due to being sick or suffering Alzheimer's but because he was just tired of living in that fucked up overpopulated society of the movie. The ulterior motive of the facility in the movie's plot aside, I sort of think a place like that where you could go and humanely die makes some sense.

In our reality, the only government approved humane end-of-life program is reserved for those who are convicted of capital murder. There's something wrong about that.
posted by birdherder at 6:35 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is something wrong with a society that has better laws for suffering pets than suffering people.
posted by benzenedream at 6:43 PM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


having personally experienced the slow torture of gradually losing a family member to terminal illness, I fully sympathize with what happened here. often in this situation it is EXTREMELY difficult to break free from letting how YOU feel affect your loved one's decisions about the end of their own life. and often they hang on and suffer immensely because they don't want the others to be in pain. find the strength to let them go.

yeah, it's gonna to break me when my mom goes. but I will remind myself every day to find comfort that her suffering, being 100% mentally aware and trapped in a non-functioning body, is over.
posted by ninjew at 7:04 PM on March 31, 2012


A selfish man murdered his wife and then committed suicide to escape his responsibilities. Sorry to rain on the pity parade, but none of this is remotely excusable. Let's not hold him up as a hero just yet.
posted by Renoroc at 7:35 PM on March 31


They had the financial resources to put her somewhere where she could be (insofar as it's possible with Alzheimer's) comfortable. If he had merely been selfish, he could have done that and washed his hands of her. Note I am not saying that putting people in nursing homes is selfish - far from it (often it's the best course). But if he were purely motivated by escaping his responsibilities, he could have palmed her care off on others and never seen her again. Nothing about his actions strike me as compatible with selfishness.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:10 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


A selfish man murdered his wife and then committed suicide to escape his responsibilities. Sorry to rain on the pity parade, but none of this is remotely excusable. Let's not hold him up as a hero just yet.

I will totally hold him up as a hero, thanks. I think this was one of the most selfless acts one person can do for another. He literally sacrificed his own life to end her suffering.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:16 PM on March 31, 2012 [28 favorites]


Really, the only good solution to this problem is to kill yourself shortly after you get diagnosed with Alzheimer's/dementia. That's gonna have to be my plan, anyway, since I don't trust my relatives to let me go early and painlessly.

I say this after having watched my grandmothers go out like this. I don't even know what the hell I'll do if/when it happens to my mom. This is one of the worst living hells ever.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:28 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those who suffer from Alzheimers are not zombies, and such language is uncalled for and dehumanizing. Those who suffer from Alzheimers have just as much a right to life and compassionate care as anyone. This is not to say that their lives should be artificially prolonged; but palliative care and pain relief only is not murder.

Life is not something to cling to. But killing someone else, even a loved one, even with the most loving of intentions, is wrong.


I agree. The challenge is that, as a society, we don't really understand Alzheimers and dementia, and so have not developed the tools and therapies needed to improve quality of life to those suffering from this nightmarish condition. On top of that, there simply are not the resources to provide both Alzheimers patients and caregivers with the resources they need to maintain an adequate quality of life for both the patients and their caregivers (I'm talking about spouses and children).

As I mentioned before, Snelling likely had the financial resources to seek help for the day to day aspects of caring for someone with Alzheimers.

The fact that he planned beforehand to kill his wife and commit suicide, while somewhat understandable, is still murder.

No of us have the right to unilaterally determine when to kill another person. If there is no framework, work to create the laws to make it possible. This is too big a decision to be made by individual caveat.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:37 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


To decide that a human life must end is simply not a choice that we can make. If we really believe that we can make that choice for another, the consequences are monstrous. In the communities I am involved with, there are children with autism Some of the "lower functioning" children may never be toilet trained, will sometimes lash out at caregivers, will never go to college or hold down a job or whatever else it takes not to live a life limited to "confusion, horror, and indignity," by some people's standards. Should we kill them? If not, why not?

Do autistic children suffer in constant physical pain? There is considerable difference between a person who is mentally handicapped and a person who is in physical and mental pain due to a progressive, incurable, disease or illness. It is disingenous to lump them together.

Re those who are dying slowly and painfully, to throw up our hands and say, no, we will never make a life or death decision for someone, but instead will let chance, nature, or "god" do so, is to abdicate our responsibilities here on earth. Sometimes there is nothing to do but turn off the breathing machine, or stop treating the cancer, or provide morphine instead of more drugs with painful side effects, and wait for the end with as much love and comfort as you can provide. This is part of life. It's uncomfortable and it's sad and it's frightening, but Death is all around us, and waits for all of us. To sidestep and turn our eyes away when loved ones are facing it is to abandon them to face it alone and terrified and hurting. That is an act of cowardice, not love.

Yes, there need to be protections so that those who want to keep living can do so for as long as they wish. Consent should be given if possible, ethical issues should be raised and discussed, and the decision to let or help someone die should not be made lightly.
posted by emjaybee at 7:47 PM on March 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think what gets complicated is the space between the "turn off the breathing machine" and actively bringing about another person's death, ie: shooting them. There is a place in between those two and everyone draws their line of comfort and morality in a different place.
posted by latkes at 7:57 PM on March 31, 2012


I hope that what Charles did met the expressed wishes of Adrienne. It sounds plausible, but at the same time construing her wishes involves some subjective judgment -- I worry. There are so many pressures on caregivers. I know that I do NOT want someone to kill me due to Alzheimer's or another similar illness. (My friends and family all know -- it's "don't pull the plug!" for me.) If needed, I want to be cared for in an appropriate facility, and I am doing my best (e.g. savings, shopping for long-term care insurance) to make that a possibility. In my view, we should be improving long-term care, community-based care, and support services before legalizing assisted suicide.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:07 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why would you want to waste resources (human, financial) on your care when you don't even understand yourself or your life? How can you possibly say today, in good health, that you won't want to be taken away from your ailments when they come?

I am willing to pay into the healthcare system at all costs -- including assisted suicide, but I draw the line paying to keep someone alive who isn't even there.
posted by june made him a gemini at 8:14 PM on March 31, 2012



I am willing to pay into the healthcare system at all costs -- including assisted suicide, but I draw the line paying to keep someone alive who isn't even there.


And how, do tell me, do you tell when they are no longer "even there"? Is that in the early stages of their dementia, the middle or the late stages? Is it when they forget your name but remember their life from when they were 15 years old? Is it when they are unable to tend to their personal hygiene? What if they can't tend to their personal hygiene but remember their early childhood? Is this person no longer deserving care?
posted by onhazier at 8:21 PM on March 31, 2012


Not trying to bankrupt individual/family/nation, just stating an alternate view of what "one would want." (Personal opinion subject to revision at any time.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:29 PM on March 31, 2012


And -- who decides? It's complicated.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:32 PM on March 31, 2012


I think what he did was honorable, a pact he'd made with the woman he loved, he had the jam to hold to it, regardless it was not what some clergyman would think was right, or some other blue-nose with a long nose. It took courage, it cannot have been easy for him to put a bullet into the woman he loved. Whoever it was/is upthread who called him selfish, think about this, what he gave. Hint: he gave a lot.

And it's none of my business anyway, or anyone elses, how he decides to end his life. It could easy get sticky, the bit about taking out his wife, except that it's clear that's what they'd agreed upon, which then makes it none of my business yet again, nor anyone elses business. The idea that we -- me, you, society at large, whatever -- have some right to have a say in this, the idea that the individual does not have the authority to end this show, how he/she sees fit, and when? Give me a break. Only a weak-willed fool would not take his/her life because it's against the law or whatever, and these people were strong.

Pro Tip: There is a perfectly good way to commit suicide, it's easily available to anyone, it doesn't leave a bloody mess, and there's no pain at all. Just breathe, then fall unconscious, then take off. I put my take on suicide in that thread also, or part of it anyhow, I wrote what I want to have happen to me should I get this Alz thing, and why I want this action taken.

There's a damn good chance that I'll suffer Alz if I live long enough to do so; it took out my father, all his sibs, his mother, too. Fortunately, most of them didn't last long once this thing marched in on them, though my fathers twin sister got it years before my father did and just this past December passed from the scene, a blank sheet, unknowing, a beating heart, a body in a room, at least ten years of not being Violet anymore, a decade of not being anyone, I think more but at least a decade. At least she wasn't terrified, as she had been at the start, and as a couple other of my fathers sibs were. And my father, too, he had so much confusion and fear, those last months especially. It was heartbreaking to watch, to hear; this vibrant, social, brave man turned to terror. Damn.

It's just a horrific disease, it melts your brain, just eats into it; read about it sometime, for fun, go take a look at some of the images of brains eaten up by it, tangles of goo, covered in that plaque. It's important to leave pretty fast if you find you've got it, or it can easily get past the time where you've got the snap to leave, and then you're headed for the fade. I can't say that I'm scared of Alz or not, but I'm damn sure aware, and concerned, too. I don't mind dying, we're all getting on that bus, but I'm not interested in leaving this show anytime soon.

That was bullshit. I'm scared of it, and aware, and concerned. It's scary shit. I don't want to have it.

A good book about Alz is Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Genova knows the topic from the inside out; Still Alice is her debut novel, before writing it she spent her time earning a B.S in Biopsychology from Bates College and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, Genova worked as a research scientist before allowing herself to dream of becoming a novelist. She paints great characters in this very difficult time for them, plus she knows all the latest and greatest medications and hopes for whatever is next; a great read in about seventeen different ways. Check it out.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:42 PM on March 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


I loved Still Alice. Seconding.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:47 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


birdherder, I disagree. Oregon and Washington* have death with dignity laws, although they would not have applied in this situation because one must be deemed mentally competent to go through the request process. I just watched How to Die in Oregon, a great documentary following some people going through the process. I was very moved by the film and the main woman in it, Cody, who is dying of liver cancer and chooses to exercise her right to die under the Oregon law. I'm fairly familiar with the law because I'm from Oregon, but I learned a lot and was very glad to have watched it. I highly recommend the film.

My grandfather is currently dying of dementia and other assorted illnesses. He has days when he is lucid and has profound things to say about his life and his family, and other days he's screaming profanities at the staff at his nursing home. Before his mental deterioration, he never swore. Remembering him from ten years ago, when he was pretty neurologically normal, I'm sure he'd be shocked, alarmed, and ashamed by how he treats his staff and his family on his bad days. That's how I know he is not himself. I have not been a part of his end-of-life conversations, but my sense is that he probably would not choose to die with barbiturates or some other assisted suicide option. However, it's been heavily influential on my family's conversations on our own end-of-life plans. If I am diagnosed with a terminal illness, I will move back to Oregon to have the ability to choose when I die.

*Montana has legal assisted suicide as well, but it is through a court decision.
posted by emkelley at 8:49 PM on March 31, 2012


june made him a gemini: "I am willing to pay into the healthcare system at all costs -- including assisted suicide, but I draw the line paying to keep someone alive who isn't even there."

I'm sorry. I don't like to post on a thread I started, especially to pass judgement on what someone else has posted, but I don't think I've ever read anything in Metafilter that has made me as uncomfortable as this has.
posted by falameufilho at 9:06 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


And to think death panels were a Republican fabrication.
posted by falameufilho at 9:07 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


OMG BitterOldPunk, I'm crying...
posted by Theta States at 9:23 PM on March 31, 2012


Oh, you're right! The opinions of random people on the internet are exactly the same as a calculated lie by a major political party!
posted by rtha at 9:23 PM on March 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


falameufilho, have you ever had anyone in your life who you loved beyond measure, who suffered from Alzheimer's or another form of dementia? Do you understand what it is like to watch someone you love slip away, watch their body and brain rot right in front of you?

If you have, then your nasty little judgement is even more disgusting. And if you haven't, then I hope to whatever god there is that you never, ever, EVER have to live through that.
posted by palomar at 9:54 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've spoken before about my mother's father and the discussion he had with both his first and second wife about his ALS, here and I still hope that my husband loves me enough to walk away when needed.

I have also suffered through my father's mother's decline into alzheimers and the heartbreaking way that works out. Areta Faye Davis was a beuatiful woman, she went to finishing school and despite marrying a farmer, she was a true lady. She taught all of her children the rules of polite society even as the rules were changing. She taught her grandchildren pride in a fading family. She taught us all the importance of a good apple pie and nice smile.

This woman scrimped and saved through the Depression, through every tough year at the farm, through everything so that her family could hang on the farm and be more than they were. Everyone of her children got a college degree, and almost all of her grandchildren will have masters' degrees or above. But the money ran out, the farm was parcel out in dribs and drabs as she declined further and further.

We saw the beginning when TVA was trying to poison her with the yellow dust on the window sills. The man living in the basement making the furnace go was another sign. When she couldn't recognize her grandchildren, it became problematic. When she was conviced than her son Sam was actually her Uncle Sam, we knew it was time. Unfortunately the doctors told us that the body was in perfect condition and could live forever. Forever was 10 years of increasingly lonely and lost granny. 10 years of hemmoraging all the cash she'd save for her children wasted on her care.

The worst night, was the night I stopped by for a brief visit. I came in and she remembered me, called by my right name. "Jane, sweetie, what am I doin here?" And I told her, Granny, you're sick, you've been sick for a while and we can't take care of you. She reached out and took my hand and asked, "Is Sam your daddy?" "Yes ma'am." "Do you think your Sam could take care of me. The way he took Tippy for a walk."

I lied to my grandmother. I lied to her and said that my dad could take her for a walk and put her down in the woods like he'd done with every family pet since he was 12. I lied because there really wasn't an option but I was not going to tell a woman who was begging for a quiet easy death in the woods with her son that she couldn't have it.

My parents and I have these talks and I understand that I have one duty as an only child. That is to do exactly what they ask of me. If they ask me to help them leave at the same time, I have to. I will love them, I will beg them, I will be lost without them. But if my parents are facing the life of my grandmother and my grandfather had towards the end, I will do exactly as they ask.

We owe it to our elders and we owe it to our children to create a system that will allow adults in chronic pain a path out of the world that places no blame.
posted by teleri025 at 10:07 PM on March 31, 2012 [23 favorites]


And to think death panels were a Republican fabrication.

Yeah, well, it's funny how no one ever refers to the system which dictates terms of pointless, prolonged suffering to millions of Americans as a "torture panel".

I wish that were a fabrication.
posted by vorfeed at 10:14 PM on March 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


And to think death panels were a Republican fabrication.

Ha ha, you are so full of shit.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:40 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Coincidentally, I am on call this weekend and have a guy on my service who's lived the majority of the last two years in the hospital. He occasionally makes it out to a nursing home for a few days but always comes right back because he simply requires more care than anywhere besides a large tertiary care hospital can provide. Three organ systems have totally failed to the point where they are completely replaced by constant medical intervention: dialysis, colostomy, feeding tube, bed sores, amputations. He is so depressed that he is completely vegetative, despite having no organic dementia. There are hospitalizations where he goes weeks without saying more than a grunt in response to questions. Every doctor in my call group knows him at this point and it is torture having to witness what he's going through.

He comes from a somewhat fringe religious background where the withholding of any potential intervention is seen as going against the wishes of God. He's gradually become so profoundly sick, in pain, and depressed that he has lost all agency in his situation and has abdicated all decision making to a particular family member who shares his religious background. And so we all stand by and watch this tortured soul, with zero quality of life, dying in incredibly slow motion.

This most recent hospitalization, he was diagnosed with new decompensating liver failure, something we can do nothing to stop, and he's far too ill for a liver transplant. So this going to be it for him, finally, mercifully. Except, as anyone who's watched a loved one drink themselves to death knows, there's nothing merciful about dying from liver failure. Pain, starvation, sepsis, spontaneous hemorrhage (often through the esophagus where you may drown in your own blood) encephalopathy, agitation confusion and hallucinations, seizures, general agony, all invariably preceding death.

Or, we could simply stop dialysis and he would fall asleep peacefully. His heart would stop in a few days.

His family continues to choose "doing everything" including dialysis.

Ethical tradition, and the law, at this point says that in the case of medical futility, it is permissible to ignore the family's, indeed even the patient's wishes and withdraw care. Yet the family has made it clear how objectionable they find this and the hospital administration has made it clear they are concerned about the bad publicity that a lawsuit would bring over hastening his death.

I've participated in two Death with Dignity cases now under Washington's new law. Both certainly felt emotionally uncomfortable, not because I felt there was something reprehensible going on, but because it's a damn serious thing to write a prescription for lethal medication, and until its me with the terminal diagnosis, I really can't comprehend, nor do I want to comprehend, the issues brought up when faced with your own death and loss of decision making capacity. I will say, in both of these cases, the family of the patient was present every step of the way, in loving support with a level of respect for the dignity of their loved one that was inspiring and energizing.

I don't know what the "right way" to handle things when a loved one's suffering is no longer manageable. It's a deeply personal and uncomfortable situation, one that should not be laid bare for strangers on the internet to pass judgement. I do know that there's a wrong way to handle it.

I hate having to go visit my patient when I'm on call. Every day when I walk out of there, I'm literally shaking my head and thinking exactly what many have already observed in this thread; people ought to be able to treat their family with at least as much love and respect as they treat their animals.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:55 PM on March 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


Valuing someone's life based on their ability to control their behavior, or on their cognitive abilities, is wrong. Should we also kill children or adults with profound autism?

Probably not, but I'm all for mercy killing people who deploy slippery slope fallacies in argument. That's a genuine kindness to us all.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:24 PM on March 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wavelet: "But killing someone else, even a loved one, even with the most loving of intentions, is wrong. "

Not if they, of sound mind, ask you to help. I'm personally too chickenshit to take the murder rap, but it's the murder rap, not the morality. I believe people should have absolute control over their body and that includes the right to die at a time of one's own choosing. It also includes the right to have extraordinary lifesaving treatment, if that is a person's desire.
posted by wierdo at 11:32 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


roboton666: "Alzheimers made my grandmother look like a zombie to me. I'm mad at Alzheimer's. It took my nanny away."

Alzheimer's took the bravest, most wonderful and generous woman and left her scared and alone even though we were there for her. I'm just glad that the decline was relatively rapid rather than lingering on for years.

I miss my Nan and I'm here weeping at my desk at the memory.

So yeah, I'm pro-choice on the right to choose your ending and not leave your family as criminals for trying to ease your suffering.
posted by arcticseal at 12:04 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


birdherder, I disagree. Oregon and Washington* have death with dignity laws, although they would not have applied in this situation because one must be deemed mentally competent to go through the request process.

I'm happy my neighbors to the north have such a law and hope they spread nationally. But a big problem with Alzheimer's patients is the caveat on the end of that sentence. Cancer killed my grandparents before they were old enough to get Alzheimer's. Had my parents had to deal with their parent's Alzheimer's they may have had "the talk" with my brother and I about what they wanted if it happened to them. What we do know is what he talked about w/r/t DNRs and not being kept alive on machines (He talked to us about it years ago and I think he thought he'd go out on his motorcycle.) In my mom's case, what she's seen in her ex-husband is enough for her to tell me that if she gets really bad she doesn't want to live anymore. My mom's parents smoked like chimneys and passed on in their sixties. Some of their non-smoking brothers and sisters are still of sound mind and body and are pushing 100. So maybe Mom, my brother, and I will dodge this bullet. Even if he were in OR/WA/MT my dad's already lost the mental competence to qualify for the death with dignity laws. So there's no death with dignity for him unless something happens to him and it falls under his advanced directives regarding being taken off life support.

Perhaps the PNW will continue to lead in death with dignity when one's loving family can have a voice.

At this point, my dad is nowhere near the point in the disease where my brother or I would have to take the step of ending his life. That day will come though.
posted by birdherder at 12:08 AM on April 1, 2012


"But killing someone else, even a loved one, even with the most loving of intentions, is wrong. "

A very, very close friend died in December. Stage 4 melanoma, metastacized everywhere. The doctors stopped treatment and sent her home for hospice care. They sent her home to die. And we watched her die for two weeks. She was in a vegetative state, but she was very clearly in pain, and there was very little we could do to keep her from feeling the pain.

There was a night that I was sitting up with her, holding her hand and watching her gasp for breath, that I wish I had had the strength to grab a pillow and hold it over her face until she just stopped breathing. Her pain would have been over, her husband and her 7 year old daughter wouldn't have had to watch her suffer anymore. But I didn't. And a not small part of me still wishes I had done it. Because she was my very good friend, and I know she did not want her family to suffer along with her.

If you think that is wrong, I do not give a tinker's damn. That is YOUR problem. If you would let a loved one suffer so that you can avoid the discomfort of helping them end their suffering, then you can live with that selfishness until your own life comes to an end. I will not be that selfish again. If anyone in my life ever gets to that point again, I WILL help them end it. Judge me if you want. I'll be judging you just as harshly, I assure you.
posted by palomar at 12:08 AM on April 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


I am completely terrified of Alzheimer's. I watched a friend's grandmother succumb to it over the course of ten years, and it was nothing short of horror and grief. Anne went from a vibrant, active nurse to a shrieking shell, trapped in her own mind. She suffered greatly, and so did her family.

I have had many conversations with my family about how to handle the end of my life, and they are all aware that should I find myself with an Alzheimer's diagnosis, there will be one last huge drunken party so I can say goodbye to the people and life I love, and then I'll go take a nap with a helium mask.

I didn't have a choice about entering this world, but I will damned well leave it the way I've lived in it - on MY terms.
posted by MissySedai at 12:15 AM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


This thread has shown me that people's experience with Alzheimer's and expectations of people who have it are very different.

I still have a problem with thinking of Alzheimer's patients as zombies and soul-less, as I think they have a brain disease, but that parts of them sometimes understand and sometimes don't, and it is very hard for us to make that call after people are unable to communicate clearly.

I hope that we continue to research and come up with ways of slowing the disease, but I also hope in the future we give more caregivers the options of real help in daily life, like day-care, night-care centers, early intervention with hospice and understanding what is to come. It is not shameful to ask for help, or leave your home for someplace else, and I think while in the past (and perhaps currently some places) nursing homes have been dismal, we need to have some respect for the dedicated medical workers who are working with an aging population.

While I understand people on this thread feel like their loved ones would have been better off with an earlier death, and those choices should be talked about and discussed, having a brain disease does not take away your soul or make you worthless or make every living moment a horror show. While my dad didn't know who I was, I knew who he was.
posted by katinka-katinka at 3:13 AM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


katinka-katinka: "I still have a problem with thinking of Alzheimer's patients as zombies and soul-less,
Myself, I never said that people suffering this illness are zombies or soul-less, and I haven't seen much of that in this thread, if any. I have seen people discussing others they've seen and/or helped through the devastation brought about by this illness.

as I think they have a brain disease, but that parts of them sometimes understand and sometimes don't,
It's a devastating brain disease, and sometimes the people suffering it understand and sometimes they don't; hopefully, they've had the opportunity to make decisions upon how they'd want to be treated once they enter into the never-never land awaiting most of them.

and it is very hard for us to make that call after people are unable to communicate clearly."
Yes, absolutely, and THAT is why what this man did was right -- he and his wife discussed this, when they both had clarity of mind, and they made the decisions they wanted to make. And then this guy had the jam to do what they'd agreed upon, regardless it had to be unbelievably painful for him to do so. An honorable man.

While I understand people on this thread feel like their loved ones would have been better off with an earlier death, and those choices should be talked about and discussed, having a brain disease does not take away your soul or make you worthless or make every living moment a horror show. "
I don't recall anyone in this thread saying that their loved ones had lost their soul or were worthless. I can tell you that my father was in terror, it was bad and it was getting worse day by day, his every minute *was* headed toward making every living moment a horror show. His brother died at 78 pounds, a shrieking madman, terrored to worse than nothing. Had my father not fallen, and broken his leg, and rapidly fell downward from there, I'm pretty damn sure he was headed to the place his brother went to.

While my dad didn't know who I was, I knew who he was.
Yeah, my dad still knew who we were, and he'd ask us why was this happening, why was that happening, he walked around that assisted living place with an old checkbook in his hand, real fear in his eyes over not having any money, he took shaving cream and put it all over the windows so that he'd be safe, on and on. He knew who we were, he'd ask us all this questions, why was he so lost, on and on. So yeah, my dad still knew who I was, so far, but he wasn't going to for much longer, as this thing ate more of his brain. And yeah, I absolutely knew and know who he was, which is why it was so goddamned painful to see the person he was being consumed, disappearing, lost into the maw of this disease.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:52 AM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is something wrong with a society that has better laws for suffering pets than suffering people.

Suffering people have money and valuable assets to be siphoned-off, and laws would hinder the free market from doing so. Suffering pets, not so much. So, we just put them down.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:35 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


dancestoblue: "katinka-katinka:
I hope I didn't/don't come across as all fighty in my response here katinka-katinka; I'd awakened with a start, and couldn't get back to sleep, so still tired and skittery when I came in here; if it looks and/or feels like an attack, plz accept my apology for that; on a better day or a better time I hope I'd respond rather than react.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:05 AM on April 1, 2012


. . . "Do you think your Sam could take care of me. The way he took Tippy for a walk."

Jesus. I . . . Jesus. That is out of a Tennessee Williams play right there.
I am sorry for your loss, and thankful for your comment.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:02 AM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


We have a big problem in that dementia is such a recent entity, medically speaking. And I don't even mean we have a medical problem only, we lack the language to deal with it.

The science behind it is still at its infancy and there seem to be a variety of reasons, causes and symptoms that get thrown under one big umbrella called "dementia" if you're lucky, "Alzheimer's" if nobody knows any better.

That's why some of these frictions and arguments in this thread don't make much sense.

You are all coming from very different experiences of what has only one generic name. Maybe your loved one sank into apathy and increasingly lost his/her memory in their 80's ending up in a care home because they became a huge burden on their carers. Maybe your loved one started having psychotic episodes by age 60 while maintaining their cognitive performance and had to be committed because of medication resistant violent behavior.

It's probable that these two "dementias" have different causes and disease courses. It's very likely your particular experience of dementia bears very little relation to someone else's. And that's because we basically have one word for something that presents itself in a vast array of behaviors and symptoms, and even though we can further classify it as Pick's, FrontoTemporal, Parkinsonic, Lewys Bodies, Alzheimer's and whatnot to try to further narrow it down, chances are you don't even know for sure which type of dementia your loved one suffered from unless there was an autopsy. And sometimes even then.

There isn't enough data to discuss particularities or generalize from our individual experiences.

Which doesn't mean we can't use the type of events described on the post as an excuse to discuss the right for assisted dying no matter what the cause is. It's the type of issue that needs to be thought of from an abstract perspective and discussed based on principle rather than individual, subjective, non representative experiences.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 7:29 AM on April 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Really good points, lucia_is_dada. My grandmother had some sort of dementia, but it didn't seem to cause her any distress - she sometimes thought her daughter (my mom) was her (my grandma's) brother, who'd been dead 30 years, and if corrected she would just smile and say Oh, okay. She seemed peaceful and a little...out there, but basically content in the nursing home, which was a nice enough place. She died in her sleep one night.

When my mom was dying of cancer, mets eating into her brain - that was entirely different. She was terribly confused and frightened and often in pain due to the almost-but-not-quite bedsores caused by her condition, and, well, bone cancer is painful. The last few days were terrible. I don't know how I would have coped if she had experienced that level of terror and distress over a period of months or years. She died clutching my hand and trying to tell me something with her eyes, since she couldn't form words anymore. I wish I could have a magic wand that would have allowed me to spare her that terror.
posted by rtha at 8:25 AM on April 1, 2012


I hope I didn't/don't come across as all fighty in my response here katinka-katinka;
Not at all. I really have appreciated this discussion, it has given me a lot to think about.
posted by katinka-katinka at 8:41 AM on April 1, 2012


infini: This reminded me, oddly enough, of what I'd read about James Tiptree Jr's personal life. All I can find right now is this quote from wikipedia,

On May 19, 1987, at age 71, Sheldon took the life of her 84-year-old, nearly-blind husband and then took her own. They were found dead, hand-in-hand in bed, in their Virginia home.

but where I'd read about it talked more about how it had been triggered by her husband's increasing ill health and circumstances and how much they'd been in love.


Not wanting to derail the thread, but I don't think this is a comfortable comparison here. Tiptree AKA Alice Sheldon and her husband Ting were elderly but not suffering from dementia or other progressive health issue. Alice battled lifelong profound depression from bipolar disorder, with recurring fantasies of suicide by gun. Ting was blind but otherwise in good health, and while they had a long-standing suicide pact Ting may not have wanted to go through with it. Alice shot Ting in the head while he was asleep before turning the gun on herself, so it's impossible to know what degree of consent he had in the matter. I am not opposed to voluntary euthanasia, but I am not convinced that Tiptree's situation counts.

Regardless, Tiptree's biography is as fascinating a read as Tiptree's own writing.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:18 AM on April 1, 2012


While my heart goes out to the Snellings, of course, I can't help but be truly disturbed that Mr. Snelling used a gun. There are other ways to resolve, easy to find. This choice makes me question his mental acuity. Why not be plan to be peaceful in seeking peace, especially if the decision had been made and agreed-upon? Why end a lifetime of love so violently?
posted by thinkpiece at 9:45 AM on April 1, 2012


At the end of Still Alice, she is receiving care in her community and is still interacting with her family. That was a happy ending to me, and the one I would want for myself. But I think the points raised by lucia__is__dada are so important. For me (subject to revision), I would want to live even if I lost most or all of my marbles. But if I were violent and aggressive and mean for 80 percent of my waking hours, and no treatment alleviated that, then I don't think I would want to keep living. Don't know my answer if it were 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent. This is why I haven't figured out how to fill out a living will/advanced directive. There are so many variables.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:12 AM on April 1, 2012


lucia__is__dada: "There isn't enough data to discuss particularities or generalize from our individual experiences. "

Thank you, lucia_is_dada. Both my grandmothers were afflicted by dementia but died peaceful deaths. That someone would think they should be put down like a quarter horse with a broken leg because "they're not there anymore", and even go so far make an economic justification for it, it just blows my mind.
posted by falameufilho at 11:07 AM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


These are profoundly complicated situations, ethically, that really require immense empathy and clarity of thought to consider rationally. That's why I'm really disappointed when I see just simplistic, blanket statements such as "Taking a human life is never right" or some-such thing.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 11:25 AM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Agree, LOHK, though also there are blanket sentiments being expressed all around (not only on the anti-euthanasia side). It's very complicated.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:33 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not a big fan of blanket statements, but humans are weird like that and are going to make them anyway. So at least "taking a human life is never right" doesn't creep the shit out of me like "I draw the line paying to keep someone alive who isn't even there".
posted by falameufilho at 11:55 AM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Serious multi state advanced directives complete w/instructions can be found here.

You and all your adult loved ones should do this asap, or you get to experience stories like this for yourself eventually!
posted by lalochezia at 12:46 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I also agree, LOHK.

My own friends' and relatives' experiences have only made me less certain. One person I was very close to had always been the type to wear "no artificial life support" bracelets when doing high-risk sports, and had often talked about the foolishness of prolonging life with irreversible illness. And then he fell ill, and he fought his disease through several reversals, including periods of dementia and long grueling hospitalizations. Absolutely not what anyone would have pictured for him, but clearly it was worth it to him and, I think, illuminating for a lot of people who knew him.

Personally, I'd still want to go out at a certain stage of Alzheimer's and I'd not hesitate to help someone else do so if agreed upon in advance. But there are lots of medical conditions where it's murkier. (For example, my family member described above told me that during one period of dementia he's wanted to commit suicide but was very grateful he hadn't had the means. His dementia was a side effect and not predictable.)
posted by BibiRose at 2:53 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


>I live in fear that some day, someone afraid of death will force me to live the last few years that we forced her to live, and it terrifies me.

Yes. This a thousand times yes.
posted by OsoMeaty at 3:01 PM on April 1, 2012


I watched both of my grandmothers sink into dementia. From independent world travelers with careers in an era when it wasn't common for women to have careers they both ended up unable to walk, communicate, dress themselves or take pleasure in anything. They both had clearly articulated desire to not live to that point and there wasn't a blessed thing we could do to help them. They lived in the same building and the one watched the other's deterioration with horror and terror, hoping to escape the same fate. They both lived into their late 90s and the last 5-8 years were truly terrible.

I cared for my beloved mother-in-law for the last couple of years of her life. She was failing, blind, deaf and needing a lot of help and losing her ability to understand. Her last hospitalization, last fall, was the end of a sequence of hospitalizations-rehab-back to hospital with ever diminishing capacity. We all felt profound relief when she was moved to hospice. Her dread at losing capacity as her world became ever smaller and more confusing was palpable. We only hastened her exit via hospice care and a minute amount of morphine but I wish we could have done so a year earlier.
posted by leslies at 3:19 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


A book coming out this month, Love, Loss and Laughter: Seeing Alzheimer's Differently, has an exhibit at Pace University in New York City until April 28, before moving on to London.
posted by katinka-katinka at 7:16 AM on April 2, 2012


This episode of Ideas is well-worth listening to:

In the wake of last month's report of a select committee of the Quebec National Assembly that the Government should legalize medically supervised euthanasia, Michael Enright revisits conversations he has had with Balfour Mount, the founder of palliative care, and a group of doctors, nurses, ethicists and advocates about what we mean by a good death and the right to die.

“What has surprised me is how little palliative care has to do with death. The death part is almost irrelevant. Our focus isn’t on dying. Our focus is on quality of living.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:30 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu, I came here this morning to post that as well, after listening to it on the radio last night. But your first link is mangled.
The Enright Files - The Right to Die

Other relevant links from the (awesome timesink that is the ) CBC Archives:
Sue Rodriguez and the Right-To-Die Debate
As It Hapens: Setting The Record Striaght
posted by Theta States at 5:53 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


benzenedream: "There is something wrong with a society that has better laws for suffering pets than suffering people."

Grumpy old geek: "We can put down our pets humanely, but not those that we love the most. "

Now that the thread is almost over, I think I can come back and say this without hijacking or derailing it.

People need to stop making this people vs. pets comparison. It's not helping the euthanasia cause. It's as ridiculous as the anti-vegetarianism shtick of "plants are alive too, you know", with the difference that you sound like a psychopath when you say it.
posted by falameufilho at 12:45 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why is it ridiculous? (sincere question, no snark.)
posted by rtha at 1:03 PM on April 3, 2012


Because there's no valid comparison between people and pets when it comes to this. Our relationship with animals, emotional as it may be, is ultimately utilitarian. The fact that a certain action is justifiable on an animal has no correlation whatsoever with performing the same action on a person. It's a non sequitur.
posted by falameufilho at 3:16 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you may be mistaking your personal experience for the entire breadth of human experience, falameufilho.
posted by wierdo at 3:38 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wierdo, this has nothing to do with my experience. I am not saying euthanasia is not justifiable. What I'm saying is that the "we do it to pets" argument is ridiculous.
posted by falameufilho at 4:10 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our relationship with animals, emotional as it may be, is ultimately utilitarian.

Even if you assume this, the "we do it to pets" argument still works. Most people agree that allowing pets to suffer unnecessarily is horrid, for instance. If pets matter less to us than people -- if their suffering is "ultimately utilitarian" -- then how much worse is it to tolerate suffering in a human being who previously begged you for release?

The fact that a certain action is justifiable on an animal has no correlation whatsoever with performing the same action on a person.

People are animals, Many of our troubles stem from denial of this obvious fact.
posted by vorfeed at 9:19 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks for explaining, falameufilho.
posted by rtha at 9:33 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


People are animals

No. Not in the sense you're implying.
posted by falameufilho at 8:46 AM on April 4, 2012


People are animals
No. Not in the sense you're implying.


I'm not going to argue with you over what the meaning of the word "is" is. We are mammals. If you don't like the implication you seem to be drawing from that, fine, but if you want discussion you should come up with something to support that opinion other than "no".
posted by vorfeed at 9:45 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


falameufilho: "Wierdo, this has nothing to do with my experience."

You chose to invoke your own experience of pet ownership (or your supposition as to what it would be like) as a reason why an argument that we treat pets better than humans in this respect is inapt. So yes, it does indeed have something to do with your experience.

I assure you, there are people in this world who think of their pets as others would their own children. I may not be one of them, but that does not mean I can't understand the analogy and accept its validity to the person using it.
posted by wierdo at 6:43 PM on April 6, 2012


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