As children, we are brought up in a culture to value and hold in high esteem self-reliance, autonomy, self-care and dignity. These cultural values are nurtured and protected throughout one’s life. Until...our lives begin to fail and eventually end. As a society, we are uncomfortable and unprepared for losing independence, the ability to see, to hear, to taste and to live without pain. For many, one or more of these will become a lifelong uninvited companion. It is antithetical to the way we are brought up. There are more humane ways to keep dignity, comfort, in the dying process. Many States in the United States have grappled with this moral dilemma and resolved it by honoring the autonomy till the last breath one takes. Our state of West Virginia completely ignores a better way to die.
As a healthcare worker, I have the honor of working with people who are healed in so many ways. I have also seen many people suffer needlessly. Many struggle to find meaning and purpose for their failing mental and physical health and particularly chronic pain. Because of lack of choice for comfort in death, we allow people to live in agony. Many end up saying “God must have a reason.” That statement neither brings comfort nor relief. No explanation, no relief and no control over dignity. The very things that we as citizens of West Virginia value takes a sharp turn and we no longer have autonomy over our life, suffering or death.