Life can be described in many ways and from an infinite variety of vantage points. But in my estimation it can be most simply perceived as a journey of ever-broadening knowledge and experience, a trip in which one travels from no understanding to all understanding. And death being one of the most traumatic and yet seminal occurrences of our lives, it seems to me that a people’s attitude toward life can (to a certain degree) be gauged by the attitude they take toward death. No, I’m not just prattling on like this to demonstrate how thoughtful I am, I actually am leading to something. . . .

And that is that, when it comes to dying, little is more controversial than the medical practice by which the process is sped up. Specifically I mean doctor-assisted suicide, not non-requested mercy killings, which is another matter entirely. And sensible, professional euthanasia, not just helping someone to commit suicide in the back of a van while driving them to the morgue. That said, though, I’m gonna talk about Jack Kevorkian anyway.

When Dr. Kevorkian was found not guilty of murder for an assisted suicide in Michigan, Limbaugh played videotape of some of the jurors explaining how they had reached their verdict. One particular juror said his decision was based on the facts of the case, but then went on to say how maybe it was also influenced by his own life experiences. He was announced clinically dead in 1973, and of this he nonchalantly said, ‘‘And I guess it wasn’t that bad.’’

Needless to say Limbaugh couldn’t believe this (it was a strange statement to be sure——I thought harmless and amusing). But Limbaugh then said he doesn’t believe movie or television violence is responsible for all the violence in our society, but they’re the only reason he can fathom somebody dying and actually saying it wasn’t that bad. By this it sounded as though he is quite terrified of dying, not unlike most humans. I’ve always found it odd how those who so faithfully embrace this cloudy vision of ‘‘heaven’’ are also so terrified of their own mortality. (Perhaps because the Bible describes such a conditional and vengeful God.)

Of course life is better than death for those in their prime, but when already slipping swiftly down that slope, painfully so, then how can embracing one’s ultimate fate be a bad thing? But Limbaugh, like many, can’t seem to equate death with anything but the ultimate shaft.

Limbaugh scoffs at the notion that assisted suicide benefits the patient who wants it because, though they may be in terrible pain, it’s simply a matter of taking into account the alternative: Death. Course it’s rather easy for him to say it won’t benefit the patient when he’s not the one suffering; yet still, were he in the most horrific pain imaginable he’d probably still reject the notion of such an exit, for his fear is so great that I don’t believe even miserably teetering on the unstoppable brink will he ever accept the inevitability of his own death. (And thus till his last breath will he scorn those who do accept their own deaths, fight to deny them the right of assisted suicide, and will continue to preach how liberals are undermining all respect for human life.)


Well, actually, death isn’t quite people’s greatest fear. It’s second only to public speaking. Having taken a speech class I can verify that——it was a terrifying experience alright. But a fun fear to face. Most people never think to overcome a fear like that, much like they never question their fear of death.

Now I’m not talking about the rational fear everyone possesses of being prematurely killed, but there is a pretty radical difference between possessing a healthy instinct for survival and a conditioned fear of the unknown. People are so afraid of their own physical mortality that they’ve turned death into the big bad boogeyman lurking under the bed or hiding in the closet, and these fearful souls are going to oppose it in all its forms, even a dying person’s own will to die.

Few of the arguments made against assisted suicide contain much, if any, critical substance. Many opponents argue that sometimes when a fatally-ill person is given two years to live, it may turn out to be ten. But do they honestly believe that anyone would want to kill themselves just because they’ve been told they only have a few years to live? If they weren’t suffering, then surely they’d want to live out every last second of that time left. Anyone who wanted to die before they even began feeling the ravages of their disease would clearly be someone in need of therapy, not assisted suicide.

Still others reason that if those who want this die today when they could have conceivably lived a few more days, weeks, or months, then they might have written a poem the likes of which has never before been heard, or they might have done some other precious, significant thing in that time of their greatest suffering. Of course, the same could be said of anyone who dies a natural death . . . if they’d only lived a little longer they might have done this, they might have done that. This is called denial folks: trying to find any excuse for why a person should suffer through their pain, prolong their life, and, most importantly, avoid their death for as long as possible. I mean, just imagine all the nifty poems people could write if they never died——just imagine all the might have possibilities then.


Unsurprisingly, Limbaugh depicts proponents of assisted suicide as being more morally bankrupt radicals. ‘‘They’re not calling for a right to die, they’re mostly talking about a right to kill. The advocates of euthanasia are asking the government and courts to step aside and allow people who are feeble and elderly to be snuffed out.’’ Again Limbaugh uses an entirely inaccurate broadstroke to simplify the issue into an expedient duel between himself and devilish liberals.

The most logical argument made is that assisted suicide would turn doctors whose job it is to heal into killers. Limbaugh argues that we ‘‘shouldn’t corrupt the medical profession in this country by allowing "assisted" suicide. . . . When you corrupt the medical profession, you might as well throw away the Hippocratic Oath. Its most basic tenet is: Do No Harm——and that means no harm to human life.’’ He seems to suggest that once this line is crossed, then the floodgates of evil will open and doctors will automatically start abusing all their regular patients or something. I don’t know what kind of untrustworthy, portentous physician Rush has been going to, but for any certified and sane doctor it should be pretty easy to separate assisted suicide from the rest of their practice.

Besides, I honestly don’t feel doctor-assisted suicide can be seen as doing harm, not when it’s what the patient themselves want. Shouldn’t a doctor’s main concern be the best interest of each individual patient? Well then, if it’s perceived that this truly is the will of a patient, and if circumstances allow, how can acting according to that patient’s wishes be seen as doing harm?

And how exactly would this turn physicians into executioners? We’re not talking about doctors just indiscriminately prescribing fatal doses of barbiturates to anyone who hints they may wish to end their suffering.

What we are talking about is a steady, professional process of a patient bringing up their feelings of wanting to die without immediately being carted off to the loony bin. And so as to best avoid any possible abuse (as has been suggested by the Hemlock Society), all candidates should have to be evaluated by two independent physicians to determine that their condition is indeed critical. And to a certain degree, I’d imagine, also to make sure the candidate is mentally competent. But Limbaugh argues that anyone who wants to die can’t possibly be of their right mind. After all, they want to die. And when someone is not only dying but also so crazy from the pain that they actually want to die——well now, it’d just be cruel to help such a person kill themselves.

That’s Limbaugh logic for you.

Actually, the best safeguard is to relax the rules restricting medical use of morphine to ease the suffering of those dying. Once someone is dying and in great pain, then I say give them all the drugs they want. Let their final days not be ones of agony.

Also important to preventing abuse is to make sure that the dying get the best care possible such as being in Hospices as opposed to hospitals, and improving their life to the best of those circumstances.

But if all that were done and someone, because of great pain, still wills to end their own life, then that person should also have the choice of doing so with dignity. To knowingly say their final good-byes to family and loved ones; and to do nothing more criminal than end their own suffering and embrace what they know to be every mortal being’s inevitable and ultimate conclusion.

Death is as natural a part of life as anything. It’s about time people understood this. And rather than resist all attempts to confront death, people must be willing to accept and, in some cases, even welcome it.

Rush Limbaugh can’t imagine accepting death without this causing people to value life less. But by embracing death you are also embracing life. Those afraid to die are almost inevitably afraid to live. There is incredible freedom in being able to transcend one’s fear of death——I can hardly imagine a more liberating feeling . . . except, perhaps, for death itself, whatever that is exactly.

Suppose we’ll all find out eventually, though for now my curiosity is largely at bay, lest life should pass me by in the meantime. Know what I’m sayin’?


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