Today, Jerika Bolen is going to the prom. It’s an odd time of year for a prom, but this is a special dance. And at 14 years of age, Jerika is a bit young for most proms, but she’s out of time for any others. You see, Jerika is dying, and it’s happening in an unstoppable and extremely painful way. So she’s going to have “one last dance” and then shut out the lights herself. (Washington Post)
This is Jerika’s very own prom. She’s calling it her “last dance.” And it is.
Jerika Bolen has an incurable disease, type 2 spinal muscular atrophy, that typically kills during adolescence, but not before inflicting great pain. She is feeling that pain now and is being kept alive by use of a ventilator 12 hours a day. Months after turning 14, Jerika decided it was time to remove the ventilator, time to die.
The alternative: She would lose the ability to control her hands and to speak, while experiencing more crushing pain and surgery along the way to an inevitable death.
So by the end of August, she will turn off her ventilator she uses to breathe — and spend her final days at home with her mother and two dogs.
Having been down this road before with our regular readers, I understand that it’s a controversial subject and I fall on the opposite side of some of these end of life issues compared to some of you. Still, I would encourage you to read Jerika’s story. This young girls has no chance other than God’s mercy for anything other than a tragically short life filled with debilitating pain. And this summer she’s going to put an end to it by her own choice.
This isn’t a case of doctor assisted suicide as we’ve seen in past patient cases covered here, so the legal entanglements aren’t the same. Jerika is essentially already on life support and she’s choosing to take herself off of it. But many, many people with different diseases are in just as bad of shape but they don’t have that option. Some diseases are even more cruel and the patients can linger on in agony for years and years on end before they finally expire of “natural causes.” That’s simply not acceptable to me in a society where we supposedly value personal responsibility and self-determination. How is it within the power of the government to tell an individual – particularly one with no hope of recovery in current medical science – that they must continue down such a horrible path beyond their own limits of endurance? This is not a power which the government should ever have been given.
I hope Jerika enjoys the heck out of her dance. And if she decides to go through with turning off her life support, I pray that the end is quick and as painless as possible. And finally, I hope that everyone else facing a similar choice is eventually at least given the choice to make it for themselves.