Debbie: Hopefully, my beloved husband doesn't get ill...... I keep thinking about that, and wondering what the hell is the difference??? Why do we think it's okay to "off" our pets when they're old and ill and suffering, but not our parents or our spouses??
Tom: From a personal perspective, the difference is primarily our pervasive fear of our own death -- and, of course the many forms of fear: pride, belief, wants, needs, arrogance, and ego. From a sociological perspective, the problem is the fear of abuse, that is, the fear of having to deal with those who would game the system (for easy profit, or out of dire circumstances and great need) - particularly as such abuse might pertain to oneself when one is old and vulnerable). Typically, there are those who will gain financially or materially from prolonging or ending the life of another - and generally they are the ones who now make the decision whether or not to pull the plug (loved ones, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and lately add politicians and tax collectors to that list). These difficulties have acceptable solutions in law, process, and procedure that could be reasonably implemented, but the personal fear and distrust is so strong within our culture that we refuse to consider alternatives to the status quo.
Everyone judges the average quality of others in terms of the quality of themselves - and, when they do that calculation, the result is terrifying. No way are they going to early-on trust their survival to relatives and others in some unknown future situation, much less to some bureaucratic process or procedure. By the time they want to change their mind it is too late or they are too scared.