Sunday, January 29, 2006

to die another day.....

...this is a post I've considered writing for some time, but avoided as I worry about offending or dredging up someones issues. So consider yourself warned, and please bear in mind my motivation is to muse rather than to upset. This is first in a series.


...I don't know if its a consequence of aging, or a reflection of the circles we move in but death is touching our lives with what seems like indecent regularity at present. I haven't been counting, its a feeling rather than a statistic, but its saddening nonetheless. I'm reasonably, or unreasonably familiar with death; my parents are both dead as are all six of my grandparents. But it seems to be getting worse.

Recently I've had pause to ponder not just on death but on suicide. I've always struggled with understanding suicide; that's not meant as a judgement. I once met an advocate for mental health survivors (their terminology, and terminology I like) who felt that it was sometimes appropriate for a persons advocate to advocate that it was acceptable to allow them to commit suicide.

I was utterly thrown by that. On one hand, an advocate’s role is to support that person in whatever they choose, in another isn’t there a duty of care, human desire to keep someone alive? The advocate’s view was that another person can never know the true extent of anothers pain. Now that I can understand.

Which if we’re into the relief of intolerable suffering, brings us back to euthanasia, a topic I’ve banged on about before (tho Blogger knows not where. Could the search function be banjaxed?) If we are euthanizing people, then is intolerable mental suffering the same as intolerable physical pain? I think not, but am I being judgemental? Am I not understanding what its like to experience intolerable mental suffering? Which to date I have not.

Lots of articles recently have made me ponder on these issues. Not all of them are from the Guardian…

Recently the doctors of a woman in a coma have gone to court to ask that she be allowed to die. The court has agreed. I have to say I find this scary as I don’t feel I really know what this means. I worry about pro euthanasia doctors - I understand they should be allowed to not take enormous measures to resuscitate her, but are they talking about the withdrawal of food and water? I do hope not. And if she isn't suffering, which makes up part of their argument, then why not leave her be? Because of the family perhaps? And if so, and the doctors take into account the families views, presumably they will do so in the cases of euthansia? It seems obvious to me that its harder to watch someone struggle, than to struggle yourself.

I’m feeling slightly reassured by this recent article about Lord Joffe, particularly around his definitions. I’m not sure it’s helpful to describe people of any kind as a burden though – the answer to no longer being a burden, surely is improved paid for high quality assistance? Richard Harries, an Anglican bishop, and this article in spiked most closely reflects my own views.

But this most recent case, that of Anne Turner seems to be even more heart breaking. Its easy to understand why she may feel depressed - her husband has died recently and her diagnosis is not good news. Plus in her career as a doctor she will have seen people in some difficult situations. But she wasn't, at that time, terminally ill. According to some reports she could live for another ten years. Perhaps at the end its reasonable? But everything she described could be alleviated with support. She describes;

"She could no longer drive, take a bath unaided, and had difficulty feeding her cats"

Well I can see how that could be frustrating. I really can. I can see why she would be depressed. But would she be depressed if she knew she could get quality support? if she could get all the equipment she needed? if she could get out and about as she wished? If she knew she would have appropriate palliative care when the time came?

Because that quote? That I can really relate to. And rightly or wrongly, I'm offended that someone might think my life is not worth living.

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