Choice: Front to Back

Cafe & Clinique de la Choix
Elmer Furd

Pro-Choice on the front end of our lives implies an end to the hypocrisy regarding the ‘sanctity of life' on the back end of our lives. In this situation ‘choice’ would, and should, be in the hands of the person struggling with the value of his or her actual existence. Instead of promoting a psycho-medical culture of ‘life at all costs,’ it’s time we considered the toll that this cultural ethic is taking on suffering individuals, their friends, families and society at large.

Unfortunately, there is way too much implicit and legal pressure on people who are enduring acute physical and psychological pain, forcing the victims to continue validating the sanctity of life principle, whether they choose to, or not. Even in the few states that allow Physician Assisted Suicide you have to be fatally and clinically ill to even be a candidate for an early departure from our fragile and often brutal internal and external environs. Moreover, thousands (if not millions) suffer from assaults on their well-being that are non-lethal, yet chronically disabling to the point where it is difficult to even plan an activity, day to day due to the unpredictability of their daily illness, or the case may often be.

What kind of life is this? A testament to medieval, church induced mythical nonsense about the sin of suicide? A bounty for the medical-industrial complex? Points for giving it the ol’ college try and fighting the good fight? No! There comes a point when the sanctity and integrity of one’s personal freedom should trump all other consideration. If we are truly aspiring to be an empathic society it’s time to honor that freedom to choose on the back, as well as the front end of life. The arguments in favor of universal, socially and legally sanctioned end of life choice are hard to dismiss.

First: In its most obvious expression the suffering individual would make a reasoned, well thought out choice through the professional services of euthanasia clinics. These clinics practically exist (de facto) in our hospitals already. Of course, nobody could simply walk into a facility and expect a quick end to it all simply because their lover left them, or they were having a bad hair day. Waiting periods would be mandatory... ranging perhaps, from a few hours to 90 days depending on the circumstances.

Second: The existence of these clinics could provide significant of peace of mind to the suffering patient, allowing the person to be released from the stigma, isolation, and horrific trauma involved in taking their own life. Suicide rates in the United States now outnumber deaths by automobile accidents. Every hour there are approximately four successful suicides. Failed attempts probably outrank successes considerably. For people enduring a difficult painful life, for any reason, the sense of entrapment that our prohibition against legally sanctioned end of life legislation no doubt exacerbates the person’s depression and probably contributes as much to the terrifying decision to end it all, as does the maladies that induce the death-wish to begin with.

With compassionate end of life options the suffering party could now be released from such stigma and assess the value of their life with a more equanimous, and objective vantage point. Understanding that others around them, and society as a whole have empathically taken the responsibility to come to terms with this ubiquitous, albeit unfortunate, reality may very well enable those in such straits to reach out of the darkness and find a way to cope with these difficult challenges in a more sustaining, rewarding way.

Third: The effect of legally-socially sanctioned end of life options on family, friends and associates cannot be ignored. Like segregation, gay rights, atheism, and many other previously demonized cultural mores of our time, these clinics could defuse and liberate the human tragedy that we are now witness to, apparently ever more so, day to day. Instead of the elephant in the conversation that it is now, socially sanctioned suicide could become part of the fabric of an enlightened society, emancipated from the torments of medieval illusions about hell and eternal damnation.

Fourth: Boatloads of capital are now being funneled every day into pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and hospice care facilities that administer so called ‘life sustaining’ practices. According to a New Zealand study by The Life Resources Charitable Trust: “Due to the cost effective nature of euthanasia this will be the trend in the future, there will be more and more people who are led to believe this is the only viable option to their condition as any care or containment of their condition will not be covered.” Compare the cost of $30-40,000 of dollars for a short period of treatment to a mere $35.00 for drugs in an assisted suicide.

Fifth: We could look at death with less trauma and apprehension and see it as an organic, inevitable part of life. But this can only happen when ‘choice’ and the right to die movement becomes legally integrated into the framework of life itself. Whether one is religious and believes that life is a product of a divine creator, or simply understand it as a consequence of a random chemical universe, wouldn’t it be better, and of greater value to give a patient the option to intercept the process before it decays into such misery and expense that one spends his, or her, last days imprisoned in agonizing existential, and spiritual discomfort?

Finally, on a personal note, this is a difficult subject to write about, no less casually speak to. Despite witnessing and experiencing appalling illness in my family, as well as financial and medical adversity, I’ve been one of the lucky ones, in as much as after nearly seven decades I’m still around to even broach the subject, Meanwhile, I don't want to dismiss the highlights of an interesting and challenging existence on this planet.

I had a great childhood, uncontaminated by hyper-electronic communications...freedom to play and roam love, and have the support of family and partner with a great gal for over twenty years...experience the wonders of erotic euphoria...the gratification and ability to write, record, perform, and express myself publicly, as well as the liberating exultation of grappling with spiritual questions without being beaten over the head by institutional requisitions...and many other enriching experiences that are not available to everyone in this capriciously inequitable world.

This is why it is crucial to be in touch with as many good memories, and positive paradigms in one’s last days, rather than laying there gasping for breath, in mortal pain, expiring into a horrific finale. Instead, society needs to wake from its amoral state of denial about this issue and give us an ethical, financial, and truly compassionate way out of what is too often a wretched, costly, and bitter end.

~Marc Twang


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