What is Death with Dignity?
The dictionary shows that the word is derived finally from Latin meaning worthy. The definition includes the following:
1. The quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect.
2. Inherent nobility and worth: the dignity of honest labor.
a. Poise and self-respect.
b. Stateliness and formality in manner and appearance.
4. The respect and honor associated with an important position.
5. A high office or rank.
So one would wonder what is the expression used these days “death with dignity” could possibly mean. When we use dignity in that expression, surely we are not talking about a persons high office, rank or necessarily an important position nor would we be considering stateliness and formality in manner or appearance. We must be talking about being worthy or esteem or respect by others and also, perhaps, poise and self-respect.
Could these elements be what is missing when a death is not dignified? Can a person in great pain, suffering, perhaps mentally obtunded to varying degrees demonstrate personal poise and self-respect? Probably not. Beyond what the person is presenting as him/herself is what others consider is common consideration of all human beings: esteem, the holding a human as a high value for the potential of a human and respect, as a civilized notion, for the values, rights and beliefs of all persons. With regard to the dying person, this esteem and respect by others should be shown in care and concern about seeing that no further discomfort, anguish or alteration of the physical body, appearance or condition occurs. This esteem and respect should carry over to the person once deceased. If these elements of dignity expressed through the patient’s self or by others are missing then the death is undignified, something we, who are not in the patient’s condition at the moment, should not ignore.
I would appreciate other views from my visitors regarding what is meant by “death with dignity”. ..Maurice.