Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Laura Gray

In Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, a twenty-four year old woman, known publicly only as "Laura", has just been granted the right to die by doctors. She does not have a terminal illness and the illness she does have is only life-threatening by an act of her own hand. She suffers from severe depression.

For the past three years, she has been a live-in patient of a psychiatric institution and has attempted suicide on several occasions. She made a public statement to journalists: "Death feels to me not as a choice. If I had a choice, I would choose a bearable life, but I have done everything and that was unsuccessful." 

The date of her death has yet to be decided.

This legal decision about "Laura" is sparking outrage and debate regarding Right to Die Laws, just as Brittany Maynard's choice under the Death with Dignity Act in Oregon did last year. (Although there have been clarifications distinguishing the two, pointing out that Brittany had terminal brain cancer and "Laura" is "merely depressed".)

As a part of humanity, we each have rights. Some are protected by laws, some are expanded by laws, and others are dictated by laws. Some exist solely as a deeply felt moral code or ethical dilemma. As a society, laws often seek to control the boundaries of our choices and command over the gray areas of what is viewed from either a compassionate or a moral ground. It is a protective measure most governing parties take to protect the lives of its citizens or the views of it populous.

However, no one has the right to judge another person's "enough", that unique breaking point of suffering, because agony is extremely personal. Pain is relative to the person suffering from it.  Yet, as a culture, we often do. 

It is often debated and everyone seems to have very strong opinions about rights to die. Many people feel we do not have the right to choose at all. That that choice is allowed only to a particular divinity or twist of fate. Others feel that it is a personal decision which laws shouldn't try to interfere with. There is a faction which look at the circumstances of "Laura's" request to die and respond that she is too young, only depressed, and not facing a terminal diagnosis. Other factions see Brittany as a tragedy who courageously chose to escape the pain of the inevitable with dignity surrounded by supportive family and friends.

Like pain and survival, there is no black and white, or right and wrong. What could be deemed correct for one could be combatively opposed for another. Each choice is individual to the situation and every choice therefore is gray. 

We each cast a shadow when light strikes us. But the length and strength of our shadows are determined by a variety of factors. Shadows can change and shift without warning when the light is altered. It is all a matter of perspective, timing, and circumstance.

We are all different people. We face different battles which can lead to a variety of unpopular choices. Sometimes we choose correctly and sometimes we do not. Sometimes choices are made for us which we don't agree with and have no control over. Other times we make choices during a crisis we would never have made otherwise, but are the right choice for us in that moment.

The need for some choices could change with time, treatment, understanding, and healing. Or they could compound and intensify. There is no way to be sure in the moment.

As a survivor, I choose to wish peace for those without hope and hope for those without peace. And have respect for each individual's journey to find a way through the pain, because it is their's, relative only to them.

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