We had to guess whether to play his old favorites, Miles Davis and Nina Simone, or the qawwali music of his native Pakistan. We had to guess whether he wanted to be buried in a traditional cemetery or under a tree in a forest. Though born a Muslim, my father was not a religious man. He smoked, drank heavily and bristled at any kind of dogma. But just to cover all the bases, we smothered his hospital room with icons and scriptures representing every spiritual practice on the planet. If there was a hell, we were going to do everything in our power to keep him out of there. Each day, we had to decide anew how much effort the doctors should exert to keep him alive. And we had to endure the sheepish looks of physicians who saw our father as their failure rather than a once-brilliant yet stubborn man. There came a point when our father could no longer tolerate a feeding tube. The nurses told us he was aspirating the food into his lungs. Should they keep trying or take the tube out? Again, we had to guess what he would want. And so we played make-believe that our father miraculously became lucid. For five minutes, his sassy spirit seeped back into his body and he could communicate with us. We explained to him the cruel barrage of ailments that were ravaging him: diabetes, chronic dementia, immobility, pneumonia, high blood pressure, a bed sore that refused to heal. "Bloody hell, let me go in peace," he told us. And so we let him go. No more tubes, no more cheerleading and lots of morphine. "Go to the light," the Filipina nurse called out a few days later as he faded into a well-deserved oblivion. I bring this up because Hawai'i has been debating for some years the pros and cons of physician-assisted suicide, or "death with dignity." We've gathered reams of research on all its legal, medical and moral ramifications. But with both sides as polarized as abortion foes and supporters, we don't expect this issue to be resolved any time soon, let alone become a law. It's true that top-notch palliative care can assuage those who see dying as the only alternative to pain and depression. Hospice provides comfort and dignity to the terminally ill, and can make their final days bittersweet. But what about those whose spirits are barely flickering in the frail shells that once were their bodies? Shouldn't they have had the choice to pull the plug before the indignity of feeding tubes, diapers, fear, confusion and the inability to recognize the children they raised? I don't know whether my father would have opted for physician-assisted suicide while he was still lucid. Perhaps he wouldn't have. The point is, he never had the choice. Yasmin Anwar, an Advertiser editorial writer, can be reached via e-mail at