Two weeks ago, I put down our 7-year old family dog, Fluffy. Before she died, Fluffy had been tortured by an unknown serious illness – showing signs from high fever to severe bleeding. She was panting heavily and was suffering in great pain. The vet gave her a very gloomy prognosis, indicating that even with some costly procedures, she was still unlikely to make it.
Treating her as a part of our family, we were all struck hard by Fluffy’s death. We tried our best to accompany her going though the pain and bought her a large piece of steak for her final meal. Fluffy, despite having completely lost her ability to wag her tail, made great efforts to lick our hands, trying to show her gratitude and affection to us.
The vet suggested we put her down right away so she could avoid further pain and suffering. But the vet’s suggestion caused great dispute in the family. Some were strongly against the decision to put her down – through vet assisted death, while my two kids，who were born in Canada， were the strong supporters.
My mother was particularly apprehensive towards putting down Fluffy. “Does it mean we will kill her before she dies of her illness? How could we do that to her while she was still eating and capable of showing her affection to us? It is the cruelest thing I’ve ever seen.”
But her stance had done little to shake my daughter’s belief that putting Fluffy down was the right decision. “Fluffy is suffering in great deal… Stop being selfish and let her die in her sleep comfortably,” she pleaded, while tears ran down her face.
Fluffy was a dog, but had lived a life – albeit a lower form of life -- in our universe. The debate in my family over how to let her die has, to some extent, reflected the different cultural views towards the morality of assisted suicide and what is considered a good death.
In Asian culture, the value of good and easy death is never advocated. When dealing with terminally ill patients, family members believe they have the moral obligations to prolong the lives of their loved ones by exhausting every single means, while paying little or no attention to the patients’ pain and suffering, as well as their wishes to immediately end their lives. Under the Chinese culture, it is morally unacceptable to end someone’s life before the physical illness wears them out.
While in the West, the right for a compassionated and peaceful death has long been fought for by advocates. Many countries – including recently in Canada -- have passed laws that allow human beings suffering terminal illnesses to pursue physician assisted suicide, a tragic victory for millions of suffering patients.
The final letting go of our beloved dog was difficult. But my kids used their strong arguments to convince us that allowing Fluffy to die in peace and comfort would be the best way to show our immense love to her as well as our greatest respect for life, and thus is a right decision.
As a dose of anesthetic drug was injected into Fluffy’s ailing body, she fell into a deep sleep, and gradually slowed down in breathing until it came to a completely stop. She seemed comfortable and peaceful, and was totally relieved from the illness she was struggling with.
Watching her leaving us in great comfort was heart breaking, but also provided solace. We dropped in tears as a sense of peace and tranquility washed over us.
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