Monday, June 18, 2012

Frontline on the Shore

Bonjour, blog friends!
It is a steamy, smoggy city evening. I am writing, enjoying a quiet evening with DSH. But I've been thinking....

Usually, when I think...you get to read about it!

Last night, I was up late. Really, really late. Tossing and turning, thinking about eating toast and peanut butter for the sake of increased serotonin...hopefully leading to sleep. Instead, I did what I have been doing a lot of lately: watching documentaries. I watched seven or eight of them consecutively, ranging in subject: entymology and the agricultural importance of honeybees, colony collapse disorder  as a result of monocrops and agribusiness (in honeybees), neuroplasticity and the treatment of OCD, PTSD and schizophrenia....you get the idea.

All of this learnedness with the swipe of a library card. Oh, dear! I love, love, love (!) that you can type virtually any subject into a library search engine and get a few hundred call-number returns! There is something so satisfying about making a choice to watch something that will shape or change your understanding of the world and how you fit in it - and it's free!

I can't imagine choosing 'Jersey Shore' or 'Big Brother 29' over 'The Nature of Things' or PBS' 'Frontline'. Can you? Maybe you can. I don't know.

At any given time, there is a stack of 10 to 15 books on the bedside table that scream to be read as fast as my eyes can fly across the page. I use and abuse (using the term abuse with levity and as much deference as can be afforded!) the library to a point where it has become almost embarassing. I go to book sales, tag sales and thrift stores; read a chapter or two of a book (DSH will not book shop with me anymore), then, if I like it, put it on hold at the library. I have not paid for a book since 2007.

Sometimes, the librarians will save things that they know I would be interested in, or that they have read and want to hear my sass-mouthed opinion about (don't even get me started on all that Bella Swan garbage, all you Twi-hards!) - it's the best kind of provocation ever.  Other times, the library's digital collection will send me alerts of new, interesting things that have come out that I might like.

A few weeks ago, I got a 'you might like this' message from the library database. The library computer-bots thought that I would enjoy a documentary called 'How to Die in Oregon'. I agreed with the computer-bots and put it on hold.

Thus, the documentary-marathon at Casa Sunshine began...

You can watch the official HBO trailer here:

The video discusses the 'Death with Dignity' law passed in the state of Oregon in 1994. Later, I-1000 passed in Washington, is heavily covered.

I started to think about what I would want to happen in the event of a terminal diagnosis or catastrophic medical event where there was no hope for my long-term survival with compromised dignity and quality of life. I wonder do you out there, cyber friends, know what you would want?

Then I thought some more. Something like this requires some heavy thinking, I think.

Back to the library...where I found this:


This trailer is for a video called 'The Suicide Tourist', about a man with motor neuron disease (aka ALS or Lou Gherig's Disease) who travels to Zurich to die. He uses the services of Dignitas, where physician-assisted suicide is legal for people with terminal illness.

I felt most for his wife. It was clear she loved him, and accepted him the way that he was. I am not sure she would have been able to go on caring for him forever, but I got the sense that she would have tried - doggedly - because of the love she had for him. It was obvious, at least to me. She supported his decision as his own, with grace and humility, love and peace in the knowledge that her husband was doing what he thought best for himself.

It reminded me a lot of my relationship with DSH. I call him a Saint because he is one. He accepts my body and my limitations for what they are and would never want (I hope) for me to be different than I am. I strongly believe that he would rather have me in his life as a physically limited person than not at all. He accepts the barriers, inaccessibility and condescension of others for what it is. We snicker at the stupidness and ignorance of others.

But in the back of my mind, I wonder: at what point will all the laundry and the sickness and the helping and the burden of it being burdensome become so much for me that I just can't punish him anymore? No matter what he loves about my mind or my sass-mouth. Is that what Craig Ewart was thinking? I can empathize with that. I've been there. Done it. Blogged that.

I spoke with my dear friend Marguerite*, who is an active member of the 'Death with Dignity' movement in Canada after supporting her mother and sister through terminal illnesses. I was sure that this was something that I supported - if it is your body, it is your choice - and wanted to get involved.

You all know that I am Little Miss Super Volunteer...wherever I can lend a hand I always will. This seemed to make sense - I was sure that I wanted this kind of option available if ever I were to need it.

I needed more information. So I went where I always go. My friendly library branch.Too bad there aren't DVD's on how to be a mayor without alienating everyone. I know at least one person who could use that. Then again, he probably doesn't have a library card.

Then, I saw this:

This documentary follows a woman named Lisette. She is eighty, in good health and completely lucid. The doctor supporting her stated many times that she is healthy and has 10-15 years of excellent health, etc ahead of her.

She purchased pills to commit suicide overseas; and has purchased enough to kill herself two or three times over.

She repeats over and over that 'eighty years is long enough to live' and that she is 'bored'. She had the idea that she did not want to live longer than eighty years in her head and was going to die before then (she states this multiple times as well). She refused any kind of counselling or intervention that would concentrate effort on how to ease her boredom.

Your body, your choice. Right? Right. Here's the thing: I have a problem with this. 

The doctor himself states that he has reservations about supporting this suicide because of the message she is sending.

What is the message? Vanity? A weariness of life?  Apathy?

I feel like Lisette is a fulcrum: how I felt before seeing it and how I felt after. Death with Dignity legislations were hard-fought by people who were staring down death and did not want the embattled route. They were sick and wanted desperately to be alive: to meet grandbabies, teach their daughters the secret Christmas bar recipe. They did not go gently into that dark night. They raged against the dying of the light (Dylan Thomas).

In another 'Frontline', called 'Facing Death', we see a cancer paitent, knowing he has only days - if not hours to live - agreeing to another round of chemotherapy for myeloma, wanting a shot at even a miniscule chance to live. What would he say to Lisette?

You can watch the trailer for 'Facing Death', here:


What am I saying, here? I have no idea. Do you? Leave me a comment, if you do.

Either you support it fully - for everyone, even those whom you think may be misdirecting the cause, or you don't. Right? The question is, in polarizing issues such as these, is there ever a middle ground? Can I support people like Craig and Cody, yet dissent in cases of people like Lisette or am I making a judgement or a statement of worthiness in so doing?

DSH says he doesn't know what it means, if anything. Except, maybe, that a little 'Jersey Shore' might be a nice break from all of this information.

I wonder if you can get that at the Library....?

Good night, lovelies....xo