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This week’s dilemma:

Your twenty year-old daughter is an athlete with dreams of being picked for the Olympics in two years time.

One day, she finds a lump in her breast, and goes to the doctor. She’s diagnosed with cancer. She also discovers that the cancer has aggressively spread to her liver, and her bones. She’s then informed that the cancer is terminal.

During the following months, she’s in constant pain, and she needs constant care. She’s wasting away to nothing, and she’s suffering from depression.

One day she begs you to take her somewhere where she can take control and end her own life.

What do you do? Do you help her or not?


  • Emmy
    March 13
    9:13 am

    If her mets is that extensive, she’s got months to live anyways, if that. Yes, I’d help, rather than let her suffer.


  • Leslee
    March 13
    10:32 am

    Yes. I believe people have the right to do what they want with their own lives. No one should be able to stop you from helping someone who is in pain, suffering with every breath, to stop the ride and get off.


  • JXJ
    March 13
    10:59 am

    Absolutely yes. As long as the person suffering gives/has given their full consent, I would support their decision all the way.


  • […] See more here:  Moral Dilemma Friday: Would You Help Her Die? […]

  • I don’t have a daughter but the answer is no. I’d try to help her be happier, until the natural end. I would give her risky doses of painkillers and find some antidepressants. Would find distractions.

    It’s just anathema to me to end life when we fight so hard for it and surely there’s some other solution…
    e.g. seems like Jade wants every extra moment with her family.


  • Without a doubt, yes.

    It’s my job as her mother to protect her life and well being, and in this case its to protect her right to not suffer the indignities of a painful, prolonged death if SHE makes the choice for herself. (versus the give an overdose of morphine etc because I cant stand to see her suffer)

    Would it kill a little piece of me inside? Again, without a doubt.

    But on the flip side, if she had children, I would encourage her not to do it and to give herself every moment she could with her babies.


  • Sparky
    March 13
    1:01 pm

    Yes. Ultimately it is her choice. If my cat were suffering horrendously and there was nothing I could do for it I would be expected – nay, it would be DEMANDED of me – to end that poor animal’s suffering. I would be convicted of animal cruelty if I did not.

    If it is intolerable cruelty to an animal to keep them in such a wretched state then how can it be less so to a human who wants to end it?


  • MB (Leah)
    March 13
    1:10 pm

    I would help her. I don’t have any children, but if I replaced that with someone else I really love, including my husband, my answer would be the same.


  • Cancer that has spread that fast to that many parts of your body will kill you in days rather than months, will it not?

    I would bring my child home, lay down in the bed with her and hold her until the end.


  • Anon76
    March 13
    3:03 pm

    In such a situation, I pray with all my heart that I would have the guts to put aside MY wants and needs and assist my loved one with his/her wants and needs.

    Love can often be a selfish emotion.


  • Marianne McA
    March 13
    3:06 pm

    Thinking about it purely theoretically, no.

    Leaving the cancer aside, if a depressed person asked me to help them kill themselves, I’d say no.
    I want to say – they might regret it later – which makes no sense, because suicide is a thing you can’t regret later.
    But I wouldn’t feel you should make that decision while suffering from depression, so I wouldn’t help someone who had made that decision while depressed. In fact, I’d do everything I could to dissuade them, up to and including physically intervening to stop any suicide attempt.

    I can’t see the fact that the person is dying makes a moral difference. She’s depressed – she’s not in a position to make that decision. If I help her, I’m making a judgement that the rest of her life is not worth living.
    She has the right to make that judgement, I don’t.

    As I say, that’s all theoretical – I couldn’t start to imagine how I’d feel in real life.


  • Anon76
    March 13
    3:43 pm

    Marianne said:

    “I can’t see the fact that the person is dying makes a moral difference. She’s depressed – she’s not in a position to make that decision. If I help her, I’m making a judgement that the rest of her life is not worth living.
    She has the right to make that judgement, I don’t.”

    I think it makes all the difference in the world. The depression is caused by the fact that she IS going to die, no bones about it, and she will be in constant and probably increased pain as she does so. She is rotting from the inside out, and nothing is going to change that. Hence, the “depression” will never go away either.

    That’s why I say love can often be a selfish thing. Whether from the cancer, or suicide, this child is going to die. Whose benifit does it serve to have her linger and suffer if that is not her wish?

    (And no, I’m not picking on you Marianne, just adding a counterpoint)


  • Dakota
    March 13
    5:31 pm

    Yes, I hope I would have the strength to give her that act of grace.


  • No. I lost my father to brain cancer February ’08. In the last three years of his life he suffered pain. He suffered depression. After he was giving his life expectancy he lost the ability to engage life. And in the very end he lost his dignity. Those last couple weeks, days were extremely hard. I wish I could have spared him. But bless him, he was one hell of a fighter.

    I’ve lost nearly a dozen family members and friends to different types of cancer. I know three individuals with cancers that spread quickly throughout their body. Breast cancer. Lung cancer. Liver cancer. What’s the cancer of the blood called? Anyway, from my knowledge once the cancer has spread through your body and other organs outside of the original diseased tissue not many have months, you’ve weeks in some cases days. I’ve an aunt who simply gave up hope.

    Hospice doctors and nurses do a really incredible job managing pain in the final stage of life.



  • Mireya
    March 13
    6:05 pm

    My mother passed away of cancer. She spent her last week of life in bed, sedated due to the severe pain. She didn’t even know we were there. Previous to that, she literally was wasting away. Skin and bones. Anything she ate, she threw up shortly after. I gave her her pain meds mashed and mixed with apple sauce so that at least she had the illusion of eating. You see, one day she decided she didn’t want to continue the chemo, she was letting it run its course and not fighting it anymore… and we respected her choice. All we did was make her as comfortable as we could and let her die at home, not in a hospital or a home. She was only 65 years old.

    If she had asked me to help her kill herself (as in assisted suicide), I don’t know if I would have been able to. And I am saying this now, five years after I lost her … and even knowing first hand what it is like to have a loved one die of a wasting disease like cancer.

    Even though the scenario presented involves a very young woman, I don’t see that much difference. It’s someone that is your flesh and blood, someone you love like you love your own life.

    Very very tough.


  • Yes – My mother died of liver cancer and I would done whatever she requested in a heartbeat and worried about the consequences later. No one should ever have to be in that much pain


  • My maternal grandmother died of colon cancer a few years ago, at home. She was 88 years old. It took her almost ten months to die, growing ever more frail. Ten months of wasting away, sedated out of her mind yet still in pain. Ten months of suffering, during which she often asked for mercy, for peace, for death.

    My stepfather died just over a couple of years ago, of lung cancer and emphysema. He was 81 years old. It took him just over seven months to die. From a healthy, trim, active man who still ran to catch a bus he withered away to a pitiful bag of bones and skin that weighted less than 80 pounds at the time of his death.

    Months of pain, both physical and mental, for what? Out of “respect for life”?

    I apologize to those who believe that to be the right thing to do, as I don’t mean it as an offense, but I consider allowing a living being to suffer without hope to be inhumane.

    If it were one of my children–may God preserve them and keep them safe–I hope and pray I would have the strength not to let them suffer so.


  • Sam
    March 13
    9:45 pm

    What AztecLady said. I would help her. Or, get her to a place where others would help and I could hold her hand and say “I love you” often enough that it is the last thing she hears.



  • Marianne McA
    March 13
    11:03 pm

    I don’t think you’re picking on me, Anon76 – and as I said, I’m not engaging with this dilemma personally, because I can’t.

    Actually, if you go a couple of posts back, to where Karen posted about the Dan James case, I linked to an article in the comments that perhaps made me think this way.
    It argues that the courts tend to allow assisted suicides for the severely disabled, without properly considering other factors such as depression or a failure to receive appropriate care.
    I thought it implied that this was because the able-bodied make assumptions about how impossible they would find it to live with severe disability.

    Seems to me – philosophically speaking – an analogous situation. Before we can assist in a suicide, we must know the patient has made an informed, rational choice to die: it is not enough to be emotionally convinced that their life is unbearable. Because we might be wrong.

    Might well feel different in real life. Though the two people I’ve known who have died very rapidly of cancer in the last year both were able to stay at home, and die there, and were so well looked after by the MacMillan nurses that they weren’t in pain – and I know their families valued their last weeks, and the opportunity to say goodbye – and I can see that’s influencing the way I’m thinking about this.


  • willaful
    March 14
    12:47 am

    I had the same thought about depression. I think I would ask her to at least try an anti-depressant first. I realize that terminal illness is inherently extremely depressing, but some people *are* fighters and perhaps she would be too if not for chemical imbalance. If she’s my kid, she’s very prone to depression to begin with. :-\

    I also have no idea how I would go about helping someone die. Seriously, what would you do?


  • West
    March 14
    1:09 am

    Absolutely. It’s their choice. I’ve watched loved ones die slowly from diseases like cancer and AIDs, and I would never make anyone suffer for so long like that. I wouldn’t want to if it was me.


  • As agonizingly difficult as it would be to watch my child end her life, the answer is yes. Absolutely yes. When her whole world is going to hell, the act of choosing death with dignity, of avoiding the unimaginable physical pain or the mind and pain numbing drugs, will likely be the only way she can exert any control over what’s left of her life.


  • I don’t know what I would do. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer he took all the treatments even knowing what they would do to him and probably wouldn’t work anyway so there was no question that I wouldn’t not get his pension. It was his way of taking care of me after he was gone. I watched him suffer for months with the pain – yet we had some of the best times of our marriage during those same months. If he had asked me to help him die – I honestly don’t know what I would have done – but I know he wouldn’t have put that pressure to decide on me.


  • Las
    March 15
    9:54 pm

    If working in the my field has taught me anything it’s that death is not the worst that can happen, not by a long shot. A lot of treatments are nothing more than torture, imo, all because we humans just can’t deal with letting go. If I were the one with a painful terminal illness, with no hope of recovery, I would want someone to help me kill myself, so I would absolutely help anyone who asked me.


  • Lorraine
    March 16
    12:01 am

    I have a daughter and I’d rather die than be in this situation. However, I believe it’s an individual’s basic human right to end their life whenever they choose.

    If I knew there was no cure available to her, I’d do anything I could to help her find peace. I’d probably be tormented for the rest of my life, feeling guilty that I had killed my precious baby, but I couldn’t watch her wither away and refuse to help her.


  • Dawn
    March 17
    8:57 am

    I’ve thought about this, and I can honestly say that I don’t know what I would do. The thought is horrendous.

    A couple of years ago my sister-in-law died of breast cancer and she knew the end was coming. She was very lucky? though, in that she was a very strong woman and having to leave 2 sons behind, she went hell for leather to put her affairs in order for them (with the help of her brother and brother-in-law).

    The moment she knew that she’d done everything she could do, she let herself go, and she was gone within a few days. My husband won’t talk about it, so I don’t know if she asked for help to go – in the end it was academic, it happened so quickly.

    Again, even at the end of writing this and thinking about it, I still don’t know what I would do.


  • shirley
    March 18
    1:07 am

    This is precisely the reason why I worked in the ER for so many years. I had a couple of oncology rotations, filling for a colleague on leave or whatever, and they damn near killed me. Especially the six weeks I spent in the Peds unit.

    Cancer, AIDS, et al are ugly diseases that do more than rot the body away. I firmly believe they tear apart the soul, not just of the patient, but of their families as well. So, if I were in the situation, yes, I would do whatever necessary to help my child. Not just for dignity and grace, but because when someone is dying, especially someone you love, mercy is one thing the sufferer should receive without qualm, question, or moral rhetoric.

    As to the depression points, I have to say get real. Even those patients I’ve known with hope and high spirits are on meds for depression. Living with the very real truth that one may die, and soon, isn’t something the human brain grasps well. Anyone who knows they are dying is depressed, but in the case of serious medical conditions, implying that the depression means the patient can’t make an informed decision just really ticks me off. And I apologize if that comes across as rude.


  • Anon76
    March 18
    4:50 pm

    Nope, I didn’t think that rude, Shirley.

    And I back your opinion 100%.


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