A good friend lost a good dog last night.

Angus was one of those kind souls who was always there for his people with a smile, a wag and eyes that held great depths of soul. He loved his pack and his pack loved him. He lived a long and good life filled with woody walks, yummy treats and swimming holes aplenty, and he left it gently, in the compassionate care of his human and a caring vet.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

I’ve been in that place, and it always felt somehow wrong that we were not able to offer that same gentle exit to the humans we love who are suffering.

No, I am not equating our elders and critically ill loved ones to our pets. And no, I am not talking about someone else making the choice for us, or someone making that choice for anyone else.  I am talking about allowing a competent, clear-headed person who is facing the certain and imminent end of their life the agency to meet that end on their terms. With care, compassion and dignity.

There is something within the human psyche that prompts us to fight against death. We bring in the best our medicine has to offer and attempt to stall it at every turn.

This is hard to talk about, I know. Death is the ultimate taboo.

But talk about it we must. After all, birth and death are the universal commonalities. Regardless of who we are, what wealth we possess, what life choices we make or how we vote, all of us here were born and all of us here will die. The details will differ, but the end result is the same. So, doesn’t it make sense to have a conversation about it?

There is something within the human psyche that prompts us to fight against death. We bring in the best our medicine has to offer and attempt to stall it at every turn. And so long as the person in question agrees with this, yes, of course. We should honor their decision and offer them every option.

If, however, the person in question wants to stop, we should honor that decision as well and offer them access to a death on their terms.

I am pleased to note that Maine is one of 11 states where “death with dignity” is formalized by legislative statute, meaning that if a Maine resident has received a diagnosis of a “terminal and incurable illness” with a prognosis of death within six months, the patient may request their doctor prescribe them a dose of medication that, if taken, “would hasten death.”

Naturally, this is a call only the person themselves can make, as made clear by the legislation. Fears of family members applying pressure are, thankfully, not borne out in the reality of the practice.

In fact, those on the forefront of this conversation – and the attempts to make death with dignity a national right – speak movingly of the quiet, peace and sense of autonomy granted by being able to make this choice. Some of these conversations may be heard in the PBS documentary “When My Time Comes” by Diane Rehm.

I am grateful my friend had her dog and that Angus had her, too. I am thankful that when his time came she was there for him. I hope that when my time comes, if it can’t be slipping away during a nap under an apple tree on an early autumn day when I am old beyond measure, then I hope that I have a measure of choice in how I leave and that I leave this world with dignity and love.

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