One March night I'll never forget, my wife grasped my hand, and looking up from her hospital bed, her eyes locked on mine, she begged me to sneak her pain meds from home. Tired of living with bone-numbing pain, she wanted to overdose on pain medication, so she could finally die in peace.
It was heart wrenching, her sad eyes looking up at me, pleading. But I told her no. Then explained, as calmly as I could, that it wouldn't be good for our daughter to have one parent dead and the other in prison.
Before she died last July, my wife and I were blessed to live for 30 years our own goofy, old-movies, cheap-date life. She was one of the sweetest, most loving and giving people I've ever known.
She certainly didn't deserve to suffer as she did her last six months -- to endure eight ER visits, to be passed around like a hot potato by three different hospitals, two skilled nursing facilities, two long-term acute care hospitals, one rehab hospital -- then to finally, end up in hospice.
Take it from me, there's nothing at all edifying about suffering and certainly nothing edifying about watching the person you love most in the world suffer day in and day out for months on end.
I refuse to put a cherry on top of it. My wife's last six months were a living hell. She bore the full brunt of a confluence of medical issues -- chronic pain, a neurological disorder, an auto-immune disease, and inflammatory arthritis. In April her pain specialist straight-up admitted the strong narcotics he'd prescribed hadn't even come close to controlling her pain.
The truth is, if my wife had had access to physician-assisted suicide, she'd have used it without hesitation. As early as February, she told me that she believed that death was now a better option than the agony she lived with every day.
My wife was clearly at peace with ending her life, but in our home state of Texas, physician-assisted suicide was never an option. Partly, I blame the religious right's perverse and unscriptural indifference to the suffering of others, but I also blame the tyranny of the able-bodied, living forever in denial about death.
When most people imagine death at all, they envision it will occur some time in the far, far future when they'll be surrounded, like some Norman Rockwell painting, by all their loved ones at home. But the truth is none of us knows when we will die or under what circumstances. Many, if not most of us, will die in some kind of hospital setting with tubes and electrodes stuck all over us.
Yet I want someone to explain to me how is it right that if we have a pet that was as racked by pain as my wife was for months on end, I'd be considered cruel if I didn't bring it to the vet to be put down, but humans, no? They must suffer and suffer like my wife, who writhed in gut-wrenching pain nearly every one of her last 175 days.
Belgium and Holland have physician-assisted suicide, as does Oregon, Montana, Vermont, Washington, and now, California. In fact, across the country, public opinion is swinging in the direction of physician-assisted suicide. According to Gallup, almost 70% of Americans now support it.
But sadly, it is too late for my wife. I can never change the horror, the almost-constant terror of her last six months; though, believe me, every day I wish I could. But just maybe if more states opt for physician-assisted suicide some body else's loved one won't have to suffer in the future, as my wife did.