09 January 2017

Looking death right in the eye

Euthanasia used to be one slippery son of a bitch... now it's mostly about the paperwork.

"Between 1999 and 2001, I helped eight people die, including the poet Al Purdy. Now, as I prepare to take my own life, I’m ready to tell my story."
This one has a particularly personal feel for myself and Mrs Neo. Two days after Christmas 2016, a family friend, who had found out last October that she had a particularly virulent type of ALS, resolutely & unflinchingly ended her own life.

Last night, we received a last "good-bye" letter from her, delivered by one of her closest pals, thanking us for storing & looking after her beloved motorcycle until a friend picks it up in the spring.

Rest in peace, Andrea. As always, for better or worse... you did it your way.


9 comments:

Bill E said...

Sorry for you loss Neo. However I'd feel less nervous if science/politiians were mor interested in saving lives than ending them - seems like a cinflict of professional interest from a medical perspective

Neo Conservative said...

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bill, i'm not gonna argue this one... or try to convince you that this is the right choice.

people die from als by drowning in their own secretions. it's a horrible way to go... and one of the worst deaths i can imagine.

i would unfailingly choose being sedated and having my heart stopped after i lost consciousness than gasping and panicking as i tried to draw my last breath.

i suspect that anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

towards the end, when my father was dying of a spreading hopeless cancer, a doctor "increased" his pain medication and he died shortly afterwards. it was a mercy and i suspect it happens all the time.

that's all.

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Anonymous said...

Neo conservative,
I am sorry for the loss of your father. As a a palliative care nurse we are part of a team who looks after end-of life patients in their own homes with family present. The difference between the Dr. increasing your father's pain medication in an effort to control the symptom of pain, and euthanasia, is a significant one. The doses of medication are LEGAL in your father's case, and given judiciously in accordance with the patient's request. We constantly confirm with our patients how they are feeling and teach family and caregivers how to relieve them. We do not administer fatal doses. In the short time that euthanasia in Canada has been promoted, I know of 2 cases in my own city where the Dr. shortened the time of consent from 10 days to 3 days until lethal injection, based on their judgment (not the client). Whether you view euthanasia from a faith-based perspective of "First, do no harm", a moral one or a legal one, there are enough holes in this legislation to drive a truck through. If you are not a health care professional, you'll probably never know about them as long as it doesn't directly affect you.

Neo Conservative said...

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"anon says... The doses of medication are LEGAL in your father's case"

this isn't about legal for the people involved. why do we go out of our way to spare a family pet the horrific pain and indignity that we regularly see inflicted on our family members? in this case the morphine on the last night of my father's life was requested by a family member. i suspect he would have happily taken the additional medication himself quite a bit earlier than what transpired.

i feel this is a choice that should be left to the dying individual. as faulty as the legislation may currently be, it is, to my mind, a mercy. and if you're saying you are not aware of judicious pharmaceutical intervention by compassionate medical professionals at the request of patients or their families... then i suspect you are not actually a nurse.

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Neo Conservative said...

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ps... the term "judicious pharmaceutical intervention" is very deliberately chosen here. even watching (never mind experiencing) someone be incessantly tortured is a horrific experience.

in cases like this... death was a much welcomed mercy and relief to everyone involved.

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Anonymous said...

owg says...........ALS is the one disease that would prompt me to end my own life. Call me a coward but I would not wish my family or my selfish self to endure the day to day problems. I also knew a fellow who lived to the bitter end and it was not a way I would chose to die.

Bill E said...

I would never judge anyone for euthanizing a relative dying in agony - I have no frame of reference - both my parents died peacefully in their sleep in hospital. It was a blessed release for both of them. -

I cannot think of the heartbreak represented by watching a loved one waste away in agony knowing every day is just a living hell - neither can I bring myself to be the one to decide to have them euthanized - that is their decision, and preferably they make that decision in a living will where they are in control of their faculties and you know this is what they truly want.

Neither of my parents left any such instructions in a living will, nor did they ever discuss it with me, both their lives ended in palliative care and the burden was on me to make this decision - and believe me the doctors were pressuring me for it - but my parents were incapable of telling me (in and out of a drugged coma) at that stage and I felt it was in God's hands - fortunately he spared me a decision that would haunt me all my days (and spared my Mom and Dad long lingering illness) and they both went quietly in their sleep of natural causes.

I make no judgements on this issue, it is strictly a personal decision between you and God and if you are a responsible person you will leave written instruction so your kids don't have the burden of making this decision for you.

Neo Conservative said...

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mrs neo is still haunted by the agony her mother endured as she died from lung cancer. the doctors, right up until until the very end, insisted on performing all sorts of tests and procedures on an obviously terminal woman. ... the very opposite of the hippocratic oath.

i suspect we have come a ways in the last 25 years... but sweet jesus... wtf happened to common sense and compassion back then?

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Bill E said...

"wtf happened to common sense and compassion back then?"

Both are in short supply in an increasingly compassionately sterile brave new world, my friend. Some days I read headlines and hope I don't live to see the current social decay play out its normal course - this used to be such a damn fine place to live