Consider this…

Tuesday, 03 Apr 2012 02:58

About Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy (120 Posts)

Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician, who practices in one of the largest emergency departments in the United States at Huntsville Hospital. Through her writing and speaking, she is devoted to transforming the end of life into a time of peace, closure and healing. Media Page

You have been together for years. Shared good times and bad, played together, lounged together. The memories seem innumerable and your love complete.

But, you never thought you would ever see her this sick, see her in this condition.  You walk into the room and catch your breath at the sight of her…her hair unkempt, her mouth opened slightly, dried saliva crusting on her lips.

You hold her wasting frame, crying.  She lets out a small and unfamiliar sound as if in pain.

A deep agony overtakes you as you notice bedsores developing over her right hip, open raw flesh stuck to fresh sheets.  You ask for a dressing to be applied.

A dark liquid is clotting in the thin tan tube that is taped to her belly, a feeding tube for artificial nutrition.

When you whisper her name, she only whimpers slightly…then feebly wags her tail.

“What the hell?” you ask.

Yes, imagine this is your family pet, the family dog.

Today I ask you to ‘consider the Shepherd or the Yorkie’

We love our pets almost as our mothers, our fathers and our ancestors, yet we would never conceive of allowing our pets to suffer in ways that we tolerate for our closest human relations.


Why would the above scenario seem tolerable and possibly acceptable if we were talking about Mother or Aunt Jean?

My husband, Kris, is fond of saying that if we did to our dogs what we do to our parents, we would be considered cruel and inhumane. We might even be arrested for animal cruelty.

When is the last time you heard of someone being arrested for keeping their human loved ones alive in such as state?

Do you see the dichotomy?

We do not tolerate the suffering of ‘less sentient’ beings, yet we have come to a place in human history where (among our own kind) we tolerate, accept, and even request the use of medical technologies that create or prolong the kind of suffering illustrated in the story above.  In doing so, have we become more…or less humane, and can we understand the difference?

Is it more or less humane to extend the life of the body at the expense of the existential suffering of the body’s owner?

Is it more or less humane to allow the body to die a natural death (albeit possibly a quicker death without artificial extensions) if this path provides less suffering and possibly more emotional-social-spiritual peace?

Those two philosophical questions may require a lot of thought, discussion, and probably debate, yet in contrast, the case of the family pet is so clear.

I ask you to consider the ‘Shepherd or the Yorkie.’ What would you do or not do to keep them alive at the end of their lives? Doesn’t Mother or Aunt Jean deserve the same type of compassion as the family pet?


Monica Williams-Murphy, MD


(Note:  We at “” do not support physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia and neither does the American Medical Association. We do not support purposefully hastened death, but neither do we support artificial death extension. We advocate for hospice and palliative care services- for the creation of peaceful and meaningful natural death experiences. WE ALSO want to make clear, that this blog, the website and our book are focused on the frail-elderly, who have lived full lives, and those who are at the end of a terminal illness.)

Our Book: It's OK to Die

"It's OK to Die" is a ground-breaking book filled with graphic stories straight out of the Emergency Room illustrating how most Americans are completely unprepared for death and dying. In response, the authors have created a unique and comprehensive guide urging EVERYONE to prepare in advance, to assure their own peace and to prevent the suffering of their loved ones.
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