Crohn’s Disease and Euthanasia. Medically Assisted Suicide for Intractable Pain and Symptoms in “Nonterminal” Illness

This man, Jason (Jay) Franklin, has Hirschprung disease, a congenital birth defect in which the colon and possibly also the small intestine are not properly enervated causing bowel obstruction and inability to pass stool.  He had his first abdominal surgery at 14 days old which left him with a life-long colostomy bag and has had, in his estimation, 15-20 or more additional abdominal surgeries in his life to treat obstructions and iatrogenic illnesses from the treatments and surgeries themselves as abdominal surgery and manhandling the intestine actually cause bowel adhesions that require more surgery and so on.  At the time this footage was taken, he was on opiate pain relievers and Valium to dull the severe pain and physical and emotional distress of his disease which medications leave him cognitively impaired and he still has severe symptoms that leave him disabled from working and which prevent restful sleep.  He is also still unable to digest most food and is unable to care for himself and lives with his mother.  In this documentary, he is observed in his ordeal to apply for and be accepted to a Swiss euthanasia program called Dignitas where he intends to take his own life due to the intractable pain and incurable symptoms and progression of his disease.

While this man does not have Crohn’s disease, his condition is similar in many ways including severe intractable pain, gut issues leading to malnutrition, malabsorption and dehydration, and the incurable nature of his illness which Western medicine nevertheless does not consider terminal because there are “treatments” available when his bowel becomes obstructed, when fistulas open between his bowel and bladder causing him to urinate feces, and when he develops life threatening infections and sepsis.  Swiss euthanasia clinics appear to be the only such services available to nonterminal patients who suffer from intractable pain, and this video documents his attempts to navigate the financial and bureaucratic minefields standing between him and his chosen escape from his suffering: assisted dying, otherwise known as euthanasia or medically assisted suicide.

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