I remember early in my anti-euthanasia activism being approached by a Hemlock Society member after a speech. “How do you envision your death, Mr. Smith?” she asked sweetly. I could only shake my head. “Ma’am,” I replied. “I’m trying to envision my life. My death will take care of itself.”
That experience taught me that some believers of assisted suicide are obsessed with dying. More evidence: A healthy elderly woman named Dorothy Conlon–a member of
the Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices and devotee of assisted suicide–decided she wanted to die by self-starvation because she could no longer travel the world and worried about being in a nursing home.
Conlon began to formalize what she called her “G2G” (“Good to Go”) plan, and to assemble volunteers who would become her “Team Oz.” (“Get it?” she would say gleefully. “Oz? Dorothy? Somewhere over the rainbow?”)
Eventually the team consisted of four women: Helen, who had met Dorothy through the church in 1989 though she was no longer a member; Susan, nearing 70, a former psychotherapist and Conlon’s massage and Reiki therapist; Heather, 53, a member of the meditation group Conlon regularly participated in; and Carmen, a longtime neighbor and friend of 25 years, who was already established as Conlon’s health care surrogate.
None considered themselves intimate friends, but all fulfilled her essential requirements: They approved of her right to make the decision and promised to help her accomplish it, while pledging to refrain from pursuing any medical intervention.
I’m sorry–actually, I’m not–but what kind of people would agree to participate and assist in such a horrible endeavor? Why not just pull out the chair to help her hang herself or close the garage door after she started her car?
Susan had presumed she would quietly and calmly perform Reiki or massage. Heather anticipated her friend might open up at last and talk about her sons and her marriage. Helen, with whom Conlon had shared more intimate conversations, figured she would just “hang out” and keep her friend company. And Carmen, who would be on an out-of-town trip for the first 10 days of the process, secretly hoped that Conlon might pass peacefully before she returned
It wasn’t pretty:
As the days went on, “Team Oz” frayed. Not quite two weeks into the process, Conlon was increasingly agitated and her caretakers debilitated, drained and overwhelmed emotionally and physically. At least one team member felt an urge to call 911, but squelched the impulse after one of the others acknowledged it was too late to restore Conlon to health.
“I think this is a real dilemma that would challenge anybody’s morality,” says Tidewell’s Angsten of responsibility the team members assumed. “Then, to watch someone suffer adds a whole other dimension.” Since calling in medical personnel went against everyone’s vow to respect Conlon’s wishes, Carmen looked elsewhere for support.
Even after death, the terminal nonjudgmentalism is so thick you can eat it with a fork:
At 5:48 a.m. the next morning, Helen and Samantha remember waking abruptly from a deep sleep at their respective homes. Conlon was still warm to the touch when they arrived shortly after. She had one arm raised above her head, as if waving to someone. There was a faint upward curve to her lips. “She looked very peaceful,” said another friend, who assisted with calling a doctor to obtain a death certificate.
“She was entirely in control to the end and ultimately, it was the dignified death she wanted.” And yet, for everyone involved, an unease lingered. “I admire what she did,” the friend concluded. “But I think it was a very hard way to do it.”
At least a few saw the selfishness in Dorothy’s approach, not that it mattered:
No one had a change of mind about their support of Conlon’s choice and her right to make it. But they all agreed they would never again offer to help in a similar circumstance.
“It did not change my views morally, spiritually or ethically at all, but if someone asked me to do this again, I’d tell them I want no part of it,” says Helen. “I’d strongly suggest they look into all the reasons they want to leave — and then that they get some goddamn pills.”
Carmen remembers sitting in her car one day after pulling into her driveway, watching and listening to the rain and thinking how much she valued living. “I don’t think Dorothy ever considered the burden you are putting on people by asking them to help,” she says. “It’s heavy, even just the knowledge of it.
I would not offer to do this again.” Like the others, Heather, who is dealing with a parent suffering from dementia, believes there should be a better option than the one Conlon chose, one that is legal and swiftly accomplished.
Right. Because the death obsession is the all-important point! And the media, as here, is increasingly complicit in pushing suicide memes.
What can I say, folks? This is what we are becoming.