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Is mercy killing a viable option?

By - Zawadi Lompisha | August 25th 2012

By Zawadi Lompisha

It was not clear why the 65-year-old woman was in the intensive care unit, but a few weeks ago, John Wise, her husband of 45 years, walked into the ICU with a concealed gun and shot and killed her. It is thought to be a mercy killing and Wise will be arraigned in court soon for attempted murder.

My normal reaction to this story would be to wonder what kind of deranged guy would do that. However, being married, I decided to put myself in Wise’s shoes and imagine what I’d do. I’m still thinking…

Put yourself in Wise’s shoes. Your husband whom you love and have spent almost all your life with is terminally ill. He has seen all possible doctors, received all imaginable treatments, but is still confined to a hospital bed. This time round, the doctor has told you he may not make it out. As doctors normally say at this point: “We’re trying our best.” If your doctor ever says that to you about a patient they are treating, brace yourself for the worst unless a miracle happens.

Your husband goes from bad to worse each day and on one of your visits, you notice that he is running short of breath, his voice is fading and he is disoriented. The doctor finds you at his bedside and says they need to take him into the ICU. It breaks your heart to see your once active, lively, strong husband lying there weak and unable to do simple things like go to the toilet or even breathe.

You know that the likelihood of him making it out of hospital alive this time round is very low. What do you do?

I have had conversations with people who say if we can put our ‘pets to sleep’ because they are very ill, why can’t we do it for people, especially our loved ones? I don’t have an answer to that. All I know is that some of us, like the unfortunate Wise, will find ourselves in a similar situation. There are many decisions that need to be made to pre-empt such a situation.

Discuss with your husband what he’d like if he were to fall seriously ill and doctors wrote him off. Tell him what you’d like. It’s not a nice conversation to have, but an extremely necessary one because, whether we like it or not, it may come upon us gradually or suddenly.

I know what my husband would or not like me to do in such a situation. Do you?

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