terminal brain death = T = terminal junkie

terminal illness n.

1. Syn. raster burn. 2. The `burn-in' condition your CRT tends to get if you don't have a screen saver.

--Jargon File, autonoded by rescdsk.

An incurable illness that will inevitably cause death in a short time. A very few illnesses are considered "terminal" in and of themselves; these include AIDS, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, some forms of acute leukemia, and severe acute radiation sickness. The majority of terminal illnesses are advanced stages of certain diseases or cancers, or conditions such as advanced renal failure, heart failure, Alzheimer's disease, and such. These types of illness mostly affect people over 60; in many cases treatment has been carried on for years but at some point will no longer be effective.

Much controversy surrounds the issue of whether the terminally ill have the right to commit (assisted) suicide in the USA, as expensive drug treatments and surgical procedures only delay the inevitable end. Because it is actually fairly difficult to kill yourself, and aging people who wish to just get death over with (rather than swell up and writhe in pain for months, riddled with tubes and surrounded by weird machines) do not wish to disturb their families by blowing themselves away, jumping off a building, or hanging themselves -- the only reliable methods of committing suicide that make resuscitation impossible -- planned, assisted suicide (euthanasia) is an attractive alternative. This is still considered murder in most of the United States. As usual, numerous religious views complicate the issue.

The Hedonistic Imperative webring (which includes www.cocaine.org) advises that the only time crack cocaine should be taken by humans is when they are on their deathbed with terminal illness -- to "go out with a bang", so to speak. To quote from the article "In Search of the Big Bang":

There is perhaps a single predictable time of life when taking crack-cocaine is sensible, harmless and both emotionally and intellectually satisfying. Indeed, for such an occasion it may be commended. Certain estimable English doctors were once in the habit of administering to terminally-ill cancer patients an elixir known as the "Brompton cocktail". This was a judiciously-blended mixture of cocaine, heroin and alcohol. The results were gratifying not just to the recipient. Relatives of the stricken patient were pleased, too, at the new-found look of spiritual peace and happiness suffusing the features of a loved one as (s)he prepared to meet his or her Maker.

Drawing life to a close with a transcendentally orgasmic bang, and not a pathetic and god-forsaken whimper, can turn dying into the culmination of one's existence rather than its present messy and protracted anti-climax.

There is another good reason to finish life on a high note. In a predominantly secular society, adopting a hedonistic death-style is much more responsible from an ethical utilitarian perspective. For it promises to spare friends and relations the miseries of vicarious suffering and distress they are liable to undergo at present as they witness one's decline.

At present, treatment for the terminally ill is carried out in a hospital or hospice (or occasionally at home) and focuses on keeping the patient comfortable and free of pain to the extent possible (often with large quantities of opiates), tying up loose ends, and maintaining maximum mobility and consciousness for as long as possible.

I suppose I had thought about it before. I'm sure I had thought, "What if..." at least once. Nothing could have prepared me for the reality of it. I can't remember ever imagining the reality of it and I certainly could never have imagined how it really is. I was a basketball coach in a small Southern town. My wife of 32 years teaches at the same school where I was the coach and she has been with me since I can remember being. We've raised two kids together. They are both strong and grown and lovely. I'm now 55 years old and I will be dead within a year. If I am lucky, within minutes.

I sit here and try to remember what I thought about before this happened. I think that I imagined if this ever happened to me, I'd just put my 9mm handgun to my head and end it quickly. I think I had that exact thought. I can almost vividly remember having that idea as a contingency plan. What seemed like a good idea in theory has now become ridiculous in practice.

I was just thinking of myself when I thought of, "What if's...." back then. Now it's here and it's me and it's her and it's them and it's not nearly as simple as all that. Had I been living alone with no one else, the gun to the head might have been fairly do-able. But I'm not alone. There's her. And there's them. And they want to hold on to hope that I will get better. It's funny that I, the one with the dying body, would have given up long ago and yet they hold out hope that these tumors will actually stop multiplying and I'll be all right again. If they could only feel the decay.

I should have just remained in the state of denial when it first happened. I'd most likely be dead by now and would have avoided them seeing me like this. It was a nauseous feeling coupled with a sharp pain in the middle of my back. I made the terminal mistake of going to the emergency room and, half a thousand MRI's and millions of dollars in wasted insurance money and one morphine pump which isn't quite doing the job later, here I am. I sit in a wheelchair when I am awake and she feeds me when I am able to eat. The kids want to be somewhere else when they come to see me, at least a hundred pounds lighter than they're used to, but they don't know how to tell me that they are uncomfortable and they don't know how to get away soon enough.

So I once thought I'd put a gun to my head and now I can't even tell the doctors "no" when they tell me there's a new growth that they'll have to radiate and attack with chemicals that will make me so sick I'll just pray for death. I can't say, "Enough!" even then. After we've been through this for so many months now. I've lost track. Is it three years since I first made that fatal mistake?

They want me to live. I have been ready to die for months.

Two things hang out there in front of my wheelchair like a baby's mobile.

Would I still be alive and healthy if I'd just have overlooked that initial searing pain?
Is it really my time or did the doctors and their modern medicine bring me to this point?
And, what is the one thing my wife and kids want me to say to them before I go?
Are they waiting on some sort of revelation I am supposed to proffer prior to leaving?
Disappointing them as my last act is really going to make whatever comes next hard to swallow.


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