Tag Archives: Dying with dignity

Only Child on quality versus quantity of life

Only Child  contemplates quality vs quantity of life

Only Child contemplates quality vs quantity of life

Yesterday I attended the funeral service for the mother of a friend. The mother was in her late 80s and for the past 10 years had suffered from dementia. Her quality of life was not good. My friend had to put her in a nursing home eight years ago but she spent a good part of her days with her mother.

It got me thinking of quality versus quantity of life. For those of you who have been following this blog you may remember that my parents did not live to a ripe old age. My dad died of brain cancer at 66 when I was 16 and my mom died of a sudden brain aneurysm at age 63 when I was 22. Here we have my dad suffering from some form of cancer off and on for six years before he died. He was not in a good place (and I don’t mean the hospital) in the last few months. Mom, on the other hand, had a few headaches, then the aneurysm and despite surgery, she died five days later.

Two of my maternal uncles and a first cousin once removed (I hate that ancestry categorization – sounds like they are getting kicked out of the family) lived into their 90s. When the cousin died at 90, she was blind, had dementia and a bad heart. One uncle, my godfather, died at the same age. He had dementia and heart problems. The other uncle, not a blood relative, died at age 98 and was healthy – mind and body – almost up to when he died.

My paternal grandfather died in his early 70s the same year my parents were married – so before I was born. My paternal grandma died in her mid-80s of a heart attack. She still had all her mental facilities and was able to get around okay.

That’s my history. But I’ve seen a lot of other suffering from illnesses and from my observations I truly believe that quality of life trumps quantity. If your mind is gone; if your body is filled with sickness that will kill you, is there a point in carrying on?

However, having said that I believe it is up to the individual to decide if they want to end their life sooner than later if they are terminally ill (of mind and/or body). It is not up to God’s will (and how often has that term been mis-used – from the family of terminally ill people praying for a miracle, to if the person dies well, they say, it was just God’s will.)

Excuse me. It is not God’s life but yours, mine – the person who is terminally will. If God gave us free will then we should have the right, if terminally ill, to decide if we want to die sooner than later. Quality over quantity.

And that’s where the problem arises.

Canada now has given the okay to assisted suicide, although the details have to be worked out. I have a problem with that, not because it will still be up to the dying person to decide, but because another person has to get involved. For every other medical procedure and the like I believe medical doctors have to go by the letter of the law – whatever their beliefs. But not here. I think they should be allowed to go by their conscience as long as they recommend a doctor who will assist in suicide. And not interfere with the dying person’s choice.

The other problem is often a person is too sick to decide and unfortunately hasn’t made a living will. So the family members try to impose what they want and believe to be right, not necessarily what the dying person wants. And not all family members agree.

So, it is a dilemma. Maybe we should have had it built into our being that if and when we become terminally ill, we just die right away.

Of course, some won’t make it that far because of other people’s actions, from vehicle crashes to plane crashes like the German plane crashing over France because of the co-pilot’s deliberate actions.

Perhaps the only thing to do is carpe diem – something I struggle with because of all the problems in my life – and I don’t mean just health-related.

What do you think?

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Assisted Suicide, cancer, Carpe Diem, Death and Dying, Dying with Dignity, Family, Family and Friends, Mom and Dad, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child looks at dying with dignity

Only Child contemplates death and dying

When I was 16 I announced to my parents, “People should have the right to commit suicide if they wish.” The silence around the kitchen table echoed the shocked looks on my Mom’s and Dad’s faces.

What did I expect? We were all Catholic. Back then in the grey ages, the Catholic Church didn’t even bury suicides in consecrated ground. That has now changed.

So has the law on suicides. Did you know that in Canada it used to be a criminal offence to commit suicide? Of course you had to survive the suicide to be charged. Kind of ironic if you didn’t actually commit the deed you were charged. I know there is still a criminal charge of attempted murder of another person but that’s murder.

I’m talking assisted suicide here. And my views on suicide have changed somewhat since my pronouncement at the dinner table.

Lately, there has been a lot in the news about dying with dignity and assisted suicide. In July, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled physicians who help terminally ill patients who request assisted suicide should be exempt from the Criminal Code section referring to “aids or abets a person to commit suicide” The BC court gave a one-year moratorium to its decision so Parliament could rewrite the current law. Read more about it at http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/07/13/pol-cp-federal-appeal-assisted-suicide.html  The advocate and main plaintiff here was BC resident, Gloria Taylor, who had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The court granted her an exemption from the current law for a year.

Almost 10 years ago another advocate for assisted suicide, Sue Rodrigues, again dying from Lou Gehrig’s Disease and again in British Columbia was not granted her wish for assisted suicide (Sue Rodriguez v. The Attorney General of Canada and the Attorney General of British Columbia). However, Rodrigues had her doctor-assisted suicide. The doctor’s name was never revealed and no charges were laid against him or her. Read about it (with references) at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodriguez_v._British_Columbia_%28Attorney_General%29

Shortly after the June 2012 BC Supreme Court decision, the Federal Parliament appealed to revoke this law. And Gloria Taylor died this month– from natural causes – an infection.

Except for perhaps abortion, controlling our last days on earth (as much as we can; we can’t control getting murdered) is the biggest issue evoking passion on both sides of the fence.

My take is the individual who has either a terminal illness and/or who is suffering from a debilitating illness should decide whether to live or die. And for those of you thinking it is God’s will whether we live or die and even when we live or die, ask yourself the question “ Have you ever heard or read about anyone saying that a murder or fatal car accident is God’s will?” Shouldn’t this aspect apply to terminal/debilitating illness as well? For example, doesn’t a lot of whether a person with cancer or heart failure dies on the operating table or not have something to do with the surgeon’s skills and the patient’s condition?

The individual’s choice means if the individual wants to keep on living as long as possible, then so be it. Give the person all the medical and emotional support needed. But if he or she wants to end life when things go from bad to worse – but aren’t in any condition to do so – then assisted suicide by a medical doctor should be allowed with appropriate guidelines and it must be stated by the ill person in a Living Will, etc. (when they can still do so) that this is his or her wish. We don’t want a greedy offspring with Power of Attorney signing Mom or Dad up for assisted suicide just to get his inheritance. But do we want someone kept on life support who doesn’t want to be because that is the way it is done medically and legally?

I no longer think that anyone who wants to kill himself should be allowed to do so. If a person is depressed he or she should be helped and supported (and not to die). Having had a cousin in his late 30s kill himself and also attempting suicide myself thirty years ago when I was depressed has made me see some light here. I had little support (except a shrink) back then (postpartum depression blew up into a full depression if you must know) and I think with more support I might have never tried to go to the other side. Just lucky here as I miscounted the number of pills that would do it and I called a distress centre. But that’s another topic for another post. My depression wore off when another illness hit – migraines. Today it’s anxiety and worry I deal with, not depression.

What I do think is if I’m terminally ill or have Alzheimer’s I don’t want to stick around to the bitter end with all the pain and suffering to get there – not just mine, but my family’s. But I want to live as long as the quality of my life is still good. I’ve already appointed my son as Power of Attorney if my health gets to the point where that is needed. And as my lawyer told me, the POA only puts the person in charge of your health. You (I) have to specify what the POS person must do. I have – in a Living Will which I gave my son and in a talk I had with him and his girlfriend/partner.

In a nutshell, figure out what you want to do about your death and dying (and that includes funerals, burials, or not, etc.) – do all the legal paperwork and let your family know your wishes – verbally and in writing. My lawyer has also told me about visiting dying clients in the hospital where family members argued about whether to pull the plug or not.

Now we need governments to do the right thing and give people the choice.

Comments?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Assisted Suicide, Death and Dying, Dying with Dignity, Family, Health, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Suicide