Dying With Dignity: Choosing to Die
The question of ages...
I have been doing a lot of research on Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. A condition that has plagued my life for quite a while. I am trying to prepare myself and my family for the upcoming changes. As I watched numerous videos and documentaries on MS management; a video on you tube caught my attention " Choosing to die" by Terry Pratchett.
I was dumbstruck and heart broken by the story of a young man of 42 years of age named Andrew, that like I was suffering from MS. He looked so full of life, quite handsome man; but tired of the pain that characterizes MS. Against my better judgement, I kept on watching the documentary, just to get to know Andrew's journey. He had traveled to Zurich, Switzerland, to a place called Dignitas. An organization that provides the means to help end the life of terminally ill patients.
Andrew had indeed a chronic degenerative illness, that I can vouch for, but in the same token, he sounded very depressed. For the record, this should have never happened. The fact that his mother was supportive of his decision, gave me mixed feelings.
Anger, confusion, and most of all sadness. I wish, that I have had a chance to meet him so we could go on our wheel chairs for a stroll in the Swiss countryside to show him the beauty of life. Maybe, just maybe I could serve as a mirror so he could see things differently. But now is too late.
The other side of the coin
In that same string of stories, I learned of another beautiful soul named Aruna Shaunbaug. A nurse from India, that has spent 37 years in a vegetative state after being raped and strangled to the point of permanent brain damage. Talk about pain, she was not only stolen her life as it was, but also condemned to a hospital bed to be force fed and to suffer. After a long judicial process to end her suffering, it was denied. Where is justice, where is the compassion?
When I was in college, it was mandatory to take a course called Legislative Medical Practice. Or in lame terms law and legislation in nursing and in medical practice. We learned about what was our role (as RN's) in the practice of nursing, as to procedures and patients' rights.
Euthanasia was one of the topics explored and discussed in the course. It was very explicit and absolute. It is illegal. And, as caregivers, we were bound to find ourselves in the position; to witness and be asked by patients to help them die. I was put in the spotlight when the professor asked me directly, to give my opinion on the matter. As a Christian woman, the answer was simple, a big NO. Then I remembered being put in that situation before, with my mother.
She was going through her third course of chemotherapy and asked me to help her take an overdose of morphine. To be honest, I was selfish, I wanted her to live, to stay with us. Even though she was in an incredible amount of pain. I was only 15 years old. I just lied to her and gave her another medication to help her sleep and called her doctor. She felt betrayed and angry at me. She went into remission months later, and had the blessing to see her children have children just three years later. And still enjoys life today.
Euthanasia is defined as dying peacefully or the good death. Dying with a sense of dignity. Life is so complicated by itself, then we add a controversy like this one it just makes it ever more intense. To watch a loved one wither away with no hope of relief is horrible enough, but to try to walk in the shoes of those that suffer is worst.
I will never understand how a person can choose to end his life or the life of another. Maybe I am not meant to. But I can relate to holding a person's hand when they are physically and emotionally suffering. As a nurse, I had the privilege to share those last moments of a stranger facing that last walk. The common denominator is the fear for the unknown. Fear to face it alone.
To die on our own terms
Wow. To think that terminating your life, in any situation, is mind boggling. That some organizations profit from this is even worst. But in the same line of fairness, there are so many people suffering in the worst conditions imaginable, is just plain wrong. I feel torn and divided. One thing is to have a D.N.R. (Do not resuscitate order), another is to give in and give up before time runs out.
I can't make up my mind. I have no right to tell another person what to do or not do something. I am not even sure if I myself would do such thing. But I know for sure that everything happens for a reason. And sometimes we are hurting too much to do the right thing. And sometimes the most humane thing is to let go.
Maybe, as we human beings are not meant to understand the mechanisms of life. Hope can be a fleeing companion to those that suffer. But it can also be a pillar to hold on to. Some may debate the moral aspects of euthanasia, others may say is not fair to be put in that position to think about end your suffering.
The religious aspects of this are endless, condemning the already suffering person to spend the eternity in hell. That is not fair. Neither is to spend the remaining of your days asking God to have mercy. It is so wrong. To anyone that has a terminal or degenerative disease, make sure that living one more day is number one in your bucket list.
That laughter is the best medicine. That you are never alone in this battle and that you're stronger that what you think. Three weeks ago, at the end of February, 2015, I received notice of the rapid progression of the degeneration in my brain and spinal cord. My coordination and speech is unstable, and is getting harder and harder to concentrate. I am sad, yes, but that hasn't stopped me from trying to live every day to the fullest.
For years, I have been on the other side of the table. Comforting those that suffer, giving my own two cents on why to keep hoping for the best. Now I have switched places with those that hope is a two edged sword that cuts just the same. Don't get me wrong, I know how my condition is and will keep progressing. But I want to enjoy all that I can from life. Please, look around, there is so much to life than just pain.
Love is enough of a reason to hold on to life. Please, think about those that love you. Please take the time to rediscover the beauty of a sunrise, and the peace of a sunset. Look upon the innocence in a child's eye. Look at nature, listen to the music of nature. Is remarkable. Remembering all along that every moment is gift that needs to be cherished and enjoyed. Blessings...
© 2012 Anan Celeste