Thursday, April 7, 2011

Put the Cat Down

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A branch of my family just lost their cat. Seems she was getting old and it was time to put her to sleep.

Hidey, as she was known, because she liked to hide when she was a kitten, was a very nice cat. Big and fluffy and fat, and very happy to let you pet her all day long if you wanted. She didn't know how to not purr.

But as she got older, she started showing signs that she hurt too much, and they didn't want her to suffer, so they took her to the vet and stayed with her until the purring stopped.

Now she's in kitty heaven.

Most people don't want an animal to suffer needlessly, and so when there's not much hope of relieving that pain, when the animal's life is obviously at an end, most people have no qualms about putting that animal to sleep. But for some reason, when a loved one wants to die with dignity, their family often becomes selfish and won't let them go. Why is it that sometimes ending suffering is justified and sometimes it's not?

Let's think about this. In the first instance, we have an animal, which is in pain, and is going to die. And even if it wasn't going to die any time soon, the pain this animal is suffering is great enough that we feel justified to put it to sleep.

Now imagine someone you care about is also in great pain and no longer wishes to suffer. Usually we think of old people whose bodies are shutting down, bed-ridden or otherwise immobilized, crippled by arthritis or who have had their minds or bodies robbed of them by Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. We're talking about a person who knows he or she has little to live for except knowing he or she will be a burden on their loved ones, who may be in a tremendous amount of pain, and who WANTS to die. Yet, to allow this person to take their own life, or in the case they're so debilitated that they need someone's help to do it for them, is somehow against our code of decency.

Since when are animals more important than people? Since when is it all right for people to suffer needlessly? Since when do we condone torturing our old and infirm just so we can have them around for another day? How selfish and unempathethic does one person have to be to do that to another? And what happens when we're put in the same position and through the miracles of medical technology, we continue to survive through such agony for years instead of mere days?

I love my parents a hell of a lot, and can't imagine the world without them. But I love them enough to let them go if they decide that's what they want to do. Can you say the same about your loved ones?

When I looked up Jack Kervorkian, the well-known advocate of human mercy killing, I noticed that not all of his suicide assistances were clearly for terminally ill patients. Several are questionable, in that they may have been done to ease someone who was merely depressed, and who could have recovered. Which begs the question: assuming there are times when it's right to kill, when are those times?

Few people would agree that a depressed teenager should be allowed to kill themselves, right? A lot more would agree that someone terminally ill, regardless of their age, should be allowed to do so, right? Being terminally ill seems to be a good dividing line, but what exactly is terminally ill? Aren't we all expecting to die some day? Isn't it possible a bus could run us over unexpectedly at any given moment? If someone is depressed enough to make a serious attempt at suicide, isn't that a pretty good working definition of terminally ill?

And what other dividing lines are important? Quality of life? What else?

Tell me. Use the comments below.

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Additional awesomeness you can't do without:
Do Bald Men Have More Sex Drive?
The Happy New Year Philosophy
Nikie St. Giles - 2000

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4 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear the cat go. :(

    An important question is also: How do we know the animals are in such a great pain that putting them to sleep is justified, when they can't speak?

    When it comes to people, I think that mentally ill people should not be allowed to kill themselves. As far as I know, most, or at least many depressions are curable. Alzheimers is also a mental illness, and most often the patient probably doesn't even know that something is wrong with them, so I don't think you would get a decent answer if you asked them if they want to die or keep on livin'.


    Having said that:

    The only people that should get help with ending their lives are people that are mentally healthy and suffer from incurable deceases that constantly are causing them severe pain and/or will lead to a certain death anyway. Some sorts of cancer is an example of that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks. She was a good cat.

    To answer your questions,

    I'm not the most observant person in the world, but I've had and been around a lot of pets and babies and little kids who often can't speak up for themselves. Such creatures are emotional beings, and it's not too hard to figure out what emotions they're feeling just by paying a little attention to them. Speaking isn't required to convey joy or pain; simply watch what they do and the sounds they make.

    There are some people who are very sensitive to such things. Any mother can tell you what her baby is feeling at any given moment, and some people have similarly deep connections with their pets which bewilder the rest of us.

    Now that doesn't mean I believe anyone who says "my dog wants to sue you". :) 99% of animal rights activists give the rest a bad name. They're simply people with nothing better to do than to try to ruin other peoples' lives to get their 15 minutes of fame, and I try to pay them as little attention as they deserve.

    You bring up some good points about where the line should be drawn. There is a whole spectrum of possibilities. It's not a black-and-white thing. Should a 60 year old man whose body is infested with cancer, and who is in so much pain he has to be on an ever-increasing dosage of morphine to get him to stop screaming be allowed to end his life? Probably. Should a depressed teen who was embarrassed by his idiot classmates be allowed to? Probably not.

    But there are plenty of cases in between these two extremes. Where are the dividing lines? There can be more than one qualification, you know. You don't just magically get a driver's license when you turn 16, you have to prove you know how to drive.

    There's a LOT of room for debate when and where and why it should be allowed, but there are definitely reasons why it should be done some of the time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Today I caught the last half hour or so of You Don't Know Jack, the movie based on Kervorkian's life. According to the movie, he was a very proud man who finally fell because he believed too much in his own infallability. Reminds me of... well, a lot of people who need their asses kicked.

    One lesson I learned from this, and from a couple years ago when an incompetent dentist nearly killed my mother and she took the bitch to court: DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, try to handle your own case in a courtroom. The legal system hasn't got a whit of resemblance to what you see on TV.

    Worse, the courtroom has turned into a complete mockery of a forum for public justice to be dispensed. There are so many rules and dances and other mystic rituals to perform that someone who hasn't been specifically trained in their invocation will have no chance at all.

    If it's worth fighting, it's worth fighting to win. It's a shame such an industry has invented itself and made itself indispensible. No wonder step 1 of any plan to make the world a better place is "kill all the lawyers".

    Also, Kervorkian died a few weeks ago, earlier this month, outliving his prognosis by several years.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hebrews 11:1-3
    ”Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
    ”For by it the elders obtained a good report.”
    ”Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

    Psalm 33:6
    “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”

    By the breath of his mouth - By his word or command - as our words issue from our mouths with our breath. The idea here is; that God is the Creator of all things; and, as such, has a claim to praise; or, that as Creator He is entitled to adoration. To this He is entitled from the fact that He has made all things, and from the "manner" in which it has been done - the wisdom, power, goodness, skill, with which it has been accomplished.

    Psalm 139:14
    “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

    Ecclesiastes 12:7
    “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”

    Matthew 10:28
    “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    Genesis 9:6
    “Whoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man.”

    Exodus 20:13
    “You shall not kill.”

    1 Corinthians 6:19-20
    "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
    "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

    Did you give yourself birth? Are you the source of your own life? Your race, then, belongs to Another.
    If He gave you life, He also gives its goal. If He made you, He also plans out your true course. Your part is to learn His course, follow His rules, and give your best.

    Man has a soul and animal does not have a soul.

    ReplyDelete

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