02-26-16 A Conversation with Gary Knisely & Judy Schwarz
The wife of one of my college classmates had a brain tumor that had failed to respond to chemotherapy and radiation, and instead of waiting out the last few months of her life with gradually increasing headaches, loss of ability to function, and perhaps slowly slipping into brain death before her body died, she decided that she wished to intentionally end her life, and to hasten death. Her husband agreed to support her, they had a lovely last evening together and she drank the lethal prescription. Unfortunately, reality invaded this tender and vulnerable scene and the system intervened rushing her to the hospital and reviving her – quite against her clear wishes. What happened next is very important, and well-told in the beginning of this conversation. Very few of us would ever want to be in the kind of situation Gary Knisely found himself in – but it is likely that many of us will find ourselves in his situation, or even that of his wife. What Gary has to share with us in this show can make us much better prepared to deal with it.
The latter half of the interview is with Judy Schwarz, who has been trained as an R.N., in addition to her numerous other undergraduate degrees, and a PhD in nursing. Her specialty is dealing with the ethics of the Right To Die movement and the development of humane, respectful and loving environments and opportunities where people can intentionally choose to hasten their death.
Dr. Schwarz explains to us why the term “assisted suicide” is not what we are talking about here. In these cases, it is required that at least 2 physicians agree that the life expectancy is less than 6 months, that the person is of sound mind and capable of making a truly rational decision, the primary reason is not to avoid pain or because of depression, and that the intention is to terminate their lives to save needless suffering of them or their families, as well as to not eat up the families financial resources paying for extensive and expensive high-tech medical interventions. As people grow older, they very often are experiencing the onset of anxiety and fear. Some people are afraid of dying, most people are not. Instead, they are afraid of their last few months or years being characterized by excruciating pain, dementia, knowing that an answer is available is enormously relieving to people, making their last years much more peaceful. In fact, as Dr. Schwarz will explain, 1/3 of all the lethal prescriptions written by doctors in those states where this is legal, are never filled! Of course, this is something we would all rather avoid, but I think that you will find what is shared in this episode moving and personally valuable to you.