Friday, November 23, 2012

The Slow Road to Suicide

I have a confession to make. I think I may be on the slow road to suicide. Now, before you call the mental health professionals in white coats to come and take me to a padded room somewhere, hear me out. 

Each morning, along with my shower, shave, breakfast, and other morning routine things, I take my daily laundry list of medications to help relief the various medical ailments that come with aging. I won't go into a list of them all, or what they are treating, but suffice it to say that there are several. These medications are prescribed to prolong my life by keeping certain medical conditions at bay; medical conditions that, over a long period of time, could result in my untimely death if they are left unchecked. It is a fairly common situation for many people as they grow older. defines suicide as "the intentional taking of one's life". Based on that definition, you could surmise that if I were to stop taking my medications, I would be, in a nutshell, committing suicide. It would be a slow road to suicide, but it would be suicide none the less. 

You see, I know that if I do not take my medications, my conditions will eventually kill me. it could be years from now, but eventually, one of them will kill me. It may take a few years, but I would be intentionally taking my own life, just in a very slow way. I bring up the concept of "not taking" medications because I recently received a refill on one of my prescriptions and decided to glance over the ninety page informational packet that came with the small pill bottle. I think that this informational packet's entire purpose is to convince me that I should, not only not take the medication, but I should rush from house to house and destroy any form of this medication so that no one can ever takes it again. 

 The informational packet starts by explaining the purpose of the drug. This is about a paragraph long. Then it begins to explain the "Cautions and Side Effects". This takes up the rest of the ninety pages. These packets often start out common enough with some like this:  "Follow the directions for using this medicine provided by your doctor. Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist any questions that you may have about this medication." 

After that, things start to go down hill.  "Do not take this medication if you have an allergic reaction to any ingredient in this product. (I'm not a chemist so I don't know how they expect me to know that). Rarely, severe and sometimes fatal problems have been reported in patients taking this medication (What?). Your risk of developing problems may be greater if you drink alcohol daily, or in large amounts (So much for my binge drinking). Report any unexpected muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness to your doctor right away, especially if you also have a fever or general body discomfort (Don't those things normally happen when you are over forty years old?)." 

The list just goes on and on. Then we get to the side effects.  "Side effects that may occur while taking this medication include nausea, diarrhea, joint pain, sore throat, runny nose, numbness, tingling, confusion (Got that), memory problems (Got that too), painful or frequent urination, persistent pain, swelling of tendons and joints, peeling or blistering skin (Apparently zombies take this medication), severe stomach or back pain, hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the face (I'm not pudgy, I'm on medication), mouth, lips, throat, or tongue. In addition to the adverse reactions listed above, you may also experience angina pectoris, CVA, hypotension, myocardial infarction, arrhytmias, tachycardia, anorexia, constipation, flatulence (That explains a lot), vomiting, arthralgia, anxiety, decreased libido (I wonder if I can take Viagra with this), panic disorder, sleep disorder, dyspnea, impotence, and urinary tract infection. This medication may cause the failure of vital life-giving organs in your body. And, in rare cases, death." 

In rare cases? I thought the point of taking this medication was to stave off the enviable moment of my death, not hasten its arrival. This got me thinking. With a list of side effects such as the example above, one might almost be committing suicide by taking the medication. So, if I do not take the medication, I will eventually die. If I do take the medication, I will eventually die. It is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. 

The medication could some day kill me. But, if I don't take the medication, the condition for which the medication is prescribed could some day kill me. So, if I don't take the medication, one could say that I am intentionally taking my own life. If I do take the medication, one could again say that I am intentionally taking my own life. Either way, I seem to be on a slow road to suicide.

1 comment:

  1. The field of bio-ethics is a complex one. I am blessed to currently be in a parish with one of the best Christian bio-ethicists on the planet.

    One the one hand, we should never embrace euthanasia or suicide as "solutions" to intractable medical circumstances. Suffering is, in many ways, the path upon which our salvation rests.

    But on the other hand, we ought not cling to this life with white knuckles, terrified to pass on into the great beyond. There is a point at which we cross beyond reasonable measures to ensure life continues, and we enter into a kind of very expensive futility. Not only expensive financially, but expensive ethically; for ourselves, our family and our medical professionals.

    There are almost always options besides pharmaceuticals (or surgeries). Find a holistic doctor if your regard GP isn't willing to discuss alternative treatments. More and more genuine MD's are studied and trained in both Western and non-Western systems of treatment and can help you find a way to keep your life without accepting so much risk.