Monday, April 2, 2012

Leaving a Legacy

Have you ever thought about what you want to leave behind.  I'm not really referring to estate planning or legal documents.  I'd like us to think about a legacy of values and ideas, something that is uniquely you that you'd like others to know about.  Perhaps you could be an influence on another life as yours may be ending.  In the past, oral tradition played the major role, then written letters, now it's digital media. 

A non-profit called StoryCorps is doing a very nice job of bridging the generational divide by providing the opporunity of record, share, and preserve stories of our lives.  A currently featured story is a conversation between a son and father, as the latter is facing metastatic incurable cancer.

Another way of communicating is to prepare an Ethical Will.  This can both be a spiritual or moral legacy as well as a way of stating your values.  This document can be incorporated into your advance directives for end of life decision making.

StoryCorps reminds us that very important conversations not only need to take place, but that recording them provides a special way to link to present and future generations.


  1. interesting blog about the end of life. something we all have to face. What is your opinion about active euthanasie? I live in the netherlands and its interesting to know your ideas about something that happens regularly in our country.

    greetings Carla (apoligezes for englisch mistakes but i think my englisch is better as your dutch)

  2. Dear Carla,

    You're right, my Dutch is non-existent! I live in one of the few states where assisted suicide is legal. Washington State's "Death with Dignity" law permits physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates for a terminally ill patient who meets certain strict guidelines. It has no provision for injection of drugs. The patient in Washington and Oregon has to be able to self administer the drug.

    The Netherlands law as I understand it is as follows: "Legal guidelines state that the person must be incurably sick, be suffering unbearable pain and have expressed the wish to die voluntarily, clearly and on several occasions." It does permit active euthanasia by injection.

    My fear and the fear of others, is that active euthanasia can not have enough safeguards to prevent various abuses (the demented, weak, disabled, etc.). With the rapidly developing field of palliative care and hospice, it would appear that the "need" for active euthanasia is not great. Certainly, it's not at all likely to happen in Germany next door to you and also not likely to happen in the USA.

    I think over time that this area involving ethics, religion, medicine, and individual autonomy will continue to evolve.

    1. the discussion is still going on here.You are right: the law states that the person must suffer unbearable pain. The discussion here is now if thats only for pfysical pain or if that includes also mental pain. I think thats dangerous.Where must you draw a line? Mental pain is dreadfull but is it a reason for euthanasia?? i really dont know.
      We have hospices here in the netherlands and also in the place where i live. My father in law died there. hewas surrounded by the angels who work there and died peacefully without pain and (BY choice because he was very religious)naturally. My grandmother on the other hand signed 20 years ago a letter of consent for euthanasia and last year she was so sick that she asked for it. That also was a good way to die. So you see i have seen it on both sides and the both was done very carefully and with love

      greetings from the netherlands: Carla

  3. Interesting point of view from the commentor. There is much debate on assisted suicide. Many ethics are questioned on the legal aspect of it and how it can be morally incorrect or correct depending on how it's percieved.