Credit: Google Images
This will be a slight break in our camping/paddling story to handle a bit of current events. We just came home from having to have a cat put down. If there is any indication of anger in this post, I’ll confess up front that I’m filled with anger and rage. I’m pissed.
When Jean did her wildlife rehab work, not every story had a happy ending. In fact, most didn’t, since many times by the time we got them, the animals had suffered for prolonged periods from pain, stress, starvation, debilitating to lethal physical injury, dehydration, or any combination of the above. One owl hung upside-down in an ice storm, and was literally frozen to the barbed wire fence it got tangled in causing a wing injury. It hung there for two days before a farmer, assuming it was already dead, went to investigate. In spite of its poor start, this turned out to be one of Jean’s greatest success stories. Part of her success also belonged to our local vet, who helped at his own expense. But what happens if no effort or expense can produce a positive outcome? Such was the case with this kitten. The reality that nothing more could be done finally made it obvious that a gentle, humane death was needed to avoid further and increasing suffering. So, we took the kitten to the vet to have her put down by lethal injection.
I watched the cat as it quietly and comfortably went to sleep. The only thing it would know of its demise was a small injection under the skin that it would barely feel. It would slowly drop off into a relaxed sleep. Not unlike anyone undergoing surgery, it would not know or feel what followed. It was only after it was incapable of knowing anything about what was happening, while it was asleep, that the fatal injection that would stop its heart was administered.
What pissed me off was not that this was needed for the cat, and that the cat was entitled to a humane and quiet end to its suffering, but that humans are denied the same peaceful and dignified end. The policy of euthanasia, or right to die, has become known as ‘death with dignity’ in political circles. The move to get this personal right legalized has been fiercely fought by conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians on the premise of sanctity of life. This is the most distorted and hypocritical position possible. The politicians, especially, deny pre-natal care to the mother and fetus. Once the child is born, they deny funding for most health care, food for the starving, child care, education, housing and more. The sanctity of life extends only while the infant is in the womb. Before or after, for the rest of its life, it is on its own. But what if it is incurably sick or infirm? There is no provision for ending its suffering except to put it into a coma and keep it there.
If you want death with dignity, you have to qualify for it, and in many states where the Republicans and evangelicals hold sway, you also have to fight for it through the courts for months, or maybe years. To join those who qualify for a humane and dignified death you have to be a mass murderer, serial sociopath of some other type, perhaps someone like Jeffrey Dahmer, who kidnapped and sexually attacked neighborhood young people, then murdered them, cut them up, cooked and ate them for dinner. Such people, who have caused no end of suffering to their victims, their families, and society at large, are granted the most gentle and humane death granted by the state: lethal injection, the same method used on the kitten.
A neighbor of ours did not qualify for death with dignity. He was a responsible worker, husband, father, and not a mass murderer, so he did not qualify for humane consideration. His only option was to be starved to death. Liquid was administered to prevent dehydration, but no food or nutrition was permitted. He lay like that for over three weeks as his body got weaker and weaker, and then his organs slowly failed one by one as they died individually from lack of sustenance until finally his heart joined the list. Meanwhile, the exorbitant hospital bills sapped the ability of his survivors to provide for their own existence as they sat and daily watched him weaken and fade away as he starved to death. We have been shown that the brain continues to function through unconsciousness, coma, and even after death for a while, so while the ‘patient’ may not be exhibiting signs of his or her pain and suffering, they are nevertheless experiencing it themselves. A mass murderer is treated with humane care, while a responsible husband and father is starved to death while his family watches. There is no sanctity there, and I refuse to believe any God would wish to cause such suffering. Such a God could be no God at all unless his aim was to sanctify pain and suffering. We need to stop rewarding the guilty and persecuting the innocent.