Texas Needs Death with Dignity Law

Bill Neinast


A self-imposed rule for writing this column is to avoid personal pronouns. I, my, mine and similar phrases are to be avoided as much as possible.

Exceptions were made when the subject was appropriate, such as writing about my father or grandfather or to illustrate personal experience with the subject.

This is one of those exceptions.  If I did not make it personal, some would react with something like, “Yeah, if this situation applied to him, he would sing a different song.”

So if there are too many personal pronouns in  the following paragraphs, you may want to skip to the final few paragraphs.

I am 86 years old.  My wife is 85.  In our 63 happy years of making a home in 20 houses, we have reared four great productive adults who have families of their own.  Two of those families live in Austin, one in Dallas, and one in Midland.

Both of us have lost body organs to cancer and have had other hospitalizations.  Although the prescription medicine bottles in our cabinets might belie this, we think we are in good health.

We have Do Not Resuscitate orders and Medical Powers of Attorney on file with the local hospital.  In keeping with our belief in being of service to others and the community at large, we have willed or donated our bodies to The University of Texas and Baylor University schools of medicine for use in research, teaching, or anything the schools think appropriate.  

We volunteer at Baylor-Scott and White Hospital, Brenham.  I man the front information desk and observe what enters through the main entrance.  Observing some of the “things” brought through those doors is disturbing.  

I use the term “things” on purpose.  There is something in the shape of a human body slumped over in a wheelchair.  The chair is being manipulated by a loving spouse, daughter, or son.

The quality of those in the wheelchairs must be -0; the concern, worry, and fear on the part of the caregivers must be 100+. 

Death is inevitable.  My wife and I do not want to die, but are not scared of dying.  We are concerned, however, about becoming an unnecessary burden on the other or the children. 

When our time comes, we will leave believing that in our small way we made the world a little better place to live. 

Recently, I was a patient in one of the cubicles in the emergency department of the local hospital.  I could hear the attendants trying to alleviate the pain and nausea being suffered in the adjoining cubicle.  Then I heard, “He’s going.”

Relatives were rushed out of the cubicle, a Code Blue was broadcast, and more doctors and attendants rushed in.  I listened to their valiant efforts to resuscitate.  I could hear the defibrillator ginning up for the 300 volt shock, and the “clears” to signal no one was touching the body.

After about 15 minutes, word came in that the relatives asked that the resuscitation effort end.  Everything went quiet immediately and then the relatives were led back into a then darkened cubicle for one last touch.

I do not want to go that way.

So here’s the perspective.

As mentioned earlier, I am not afraid of dying, and I do not want to be kept alive in pain or as a burden on my family.  When death is knocking on the door, why should I be denied the opportunity to slide away easily and painlessly. 

Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, Washington, and Vermont have Death With Dignity laws.  These laws permit doctors to prescribe, but not administer, lethal medicines for their patients who are rational but suffering.

Texas needs such a law, but the chances of getting one are less than nil so long as the far, far right conservatives are in charge.

What a shame.


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