The usual argument for leaving the dying
person alone in a cold room with tubes and monitors blocking all human interaction, for allowing the rarest and sometimes the richest of words to go unheard or unsaid, is that this regimen is necessary to extend the person's life, albeit only for the shortest of times.
Because we learn to look unflinchingly into the mystery of our own dying, we are not frightened by the dying of others, and we can keep them company.
Near the end of "Marvin's Room" Bessie (who is herself dying of leukemia) tells her sister Lee (Meryl Streep) that she is deeply grateful to have had so much love in her life, and Lee agrees that their father and aunt have loved Bessie a great deal.
Dying is an opportunity to live compassionately, to accept our own limits and creatureliness, and to reach out to our fellow pilgrims.
Our worst fears were confirmed in a recent study reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, conducted by doctors Joan Teno and Joanne Lynn at the George Washington University Center to Improve Care for the Dying and by their colleagues at seven other medical centers.
Another source of opposition to physician aid in dying comes from some advocates for America's 49 million citizens with disabilities who are rightly concerned about society's tendency to negatively regard the disabled and to devalue their lives.
Aid in dying would be available only upon repeated request and only to terminally ill individuals for whom death is imminent.
We also hear that no dying person should have to think about the financial aspects of her or his final medical care.
The right to aid in dying can be invoked only by patients for whom death is unavoidably imminent and only for those who want to die and who satisfy all the criteria required by aid-in-dying laws.
I'm sure there are dying people who, regardless of the degree of their pain and the extent of their deterioration, still want to delay dying for as long as their individual situations permit.
Still, some otherwise supportive people think that, if adequate palliative care were used, the pain of all terminal illnesses could be controlled and that anti-depressant drugs could relieve the depression which results from a dying person's awareness of increasing deterioration and powerlessness.
But these reforms alone will not stop the needless suffering of all dying patients.
We in the right-to-die movement are determined to put an end to the anguish being unjustly inflicted upon the dying and their loved ones.