I was 19 years old when I had to help my dad, who was dying of pancreatic cancer make an end-of-life decision. Being Jewish, we don’t believe in cremation, we don’t do open caskets; we simply have a ceremony to celebrate the life of the dead. I remember the day my dad asked me mom and I to go over to his apartment. I remember sitting down on the couch and having the talk “what’s next? What are we going to do? What do you want to happen after he died?” I remember my dad asking me, a 19 year old young girl what I wanted! How was I to know what I wanted? How could I advise him of the RIGHT thing to do? What was the right thing to do? My reply to his question was “dad, you’re going to die, one day you’re not going to be able to communicate with us. Picture yourself lying in bed, getting ready to close your tired eyes, what do you think you’ll be the happiest with knowing; cremation or a burial?” He didn’t quite grasp the concept of what I was trying to say, and again he asked me the same question. I replied “I would like a place to visit so I know I have a place to go when I miss you. I can’t visit you if you’re in an urn. I would like a place to escape to.” Well, that was an easy decision. I was given what I wanted but also what he wanted.
Throughout life you come across different individuals who all want different things for you, but it’s never about what you want, it’s never about the things that will make you happy. As American’s we live in a country where there is supposed to be nothing but freedom, freedom to do what you want, freedom to live how you want, freedom to die how you choose. Being born as an American we are given that right to make our own decisions, but what happens when your decision affects the people around you? How can one decide how or when to end their own life?
As Americans I believe we not only have the responsibility but also the right to end our life the way we want to. We have the responsibility to think about death, we have the responsibility to gain knowledge, ask questions, seek legal and ethical advice, and to make sure that we are granted our requests when we die. As Americans it’s our responsibility to make sure that when we are lying on our death bed we are content with how we lived. If something traumatic were to happen, it’s our responsibility to make sure our loved ones understand what we want and don’t want. It’s the patient’s responsibility to ask questions, to make requests, to know what we want. It’s the patient’s family’s responsibility to abide but these requests and to make the patient as comfortable as possible; whether you like their decisions or not.
Patients and their families should always ask questions; there are never enough questions to ask when it comes to death. It’s always okay to question a healthcare provider. In fact, I believe it’s even okay to go and get a second opinion. If I could go back to 19 and experience my dad’s death again, I would ask more questions, get second opinions, and seek medical advice in other areas. As a family member, as his daughter, it was and is my duty to make sure when he left this world it was in the most comfortable setting. Time went by too fast, my time with him was shortened, and I regret many things; I will never regret being his daughter and his caregiver.