Today’s Dear Abby had a letter from a young man who was having trouble letting go after a beloved pet was put to sleep. Abby, of course, gave a wonderful discourse on the joys of being a dog, and how the dog’s quality of life declines greatly when he/she cannot pursue his/her life’s purpose.
I find this interesting because, once again, it demonstrates a very weird split in the American psyche. I know a great many people who have taken the incredibly difficult and heartbreaking step in having their pet(s) put to sleep. If you’ve never done it, I doubt your love has ever been challenged. There is nothing more gut-wrenching than loving an animal and knowing that it’s time… Yet, as much as you know it’s for the best, it’s hard. I’ve cried often over the loss of my pets, even though I was at the helm. Yes, they pass on peacefully. Yes, it’s better than living in pain. Yes, of course I loved them enough to want them free of pain, suffering, and the waiting for death part. I did what was right, not what was easy.
Yet, with people it’s more complicated. It’s sad to think that, as a species, we love our pets more than our friends/family. Even in the 21st century, the idea of allowing someone to let go when it gets to be too much is something we prohibit. I’ve always been amused by the idea of PUNISHING someone who tries to commit suicide. Hell, what’s the punishment, death?
Before I die, I hope that we have a comprehensive flow chat, panel of doctors, and ethics benchmarks to allow people to appropriately decide if they are ready to end it all due to excessive disease or pain. We do it for our animals, why can’t we do it for each other? We need to allow for all people death with dignity.