Ken Sturgill is a handyman in Florida.
For years my wife Connie and I used to joke about pulling each other’s plug when the time came. We both felt the same about quality of life: if my quality of life is gone as I am dying I would want to leave this world on my own terms.
Last year Connie was diagnosed with a blood cancer and the only cure turned out to be a bone marrow transplant. We moved to Seattle where we found the best clinic for her. She received a transplant, but soon developed complications with a poor prognosis.
The doctors asked Connie what she expected after the transplant. She said she wanted a normal life—good quality of life where she could travel and spend time with her family.
The doctor asked, “What if we can’t give that to you?”
She looked at me and said, “Pull the plug.”
In her final days she knew she was dying. She was strong, we had good conversations, she planned her memorial, and had accepted the end with grace. Then, after nearly two months in the hospital, began the death watch. The family was gathered around her bed for two days. By then she was unconscious; every breath was a labored, gasping moan. She finally passed on the evening of her 66th birthday, but it was a horrible, dreadful experience. Why couldn’t she have gone peacefully when she was ready?
I moved back to Florida. As a handyman I talk to people every day. Many have lost spouses or are getting sick themselves. I have yet to find a single person who doesn’t want to be able to go peacefully when their quality of life is gone and the time comes.
I don’t want anyone to have to feed me, change my diapers, or help me go to bathroom. I want to be able to put my affairs in order, say goodbye, tell everyone I love them, and go to sleep. After the experience I went through losing my beautiful wife, I am even more certain that death with dignity is the right thing to do.