Friday, October 17, 2014
Death With Dignity? Timshel.
"...the Hebrew word, the word timshel - 'Thou mayest' - that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on man. For if - 'Thou mayest' - it is also true that 'Thou mayest not'." ~ John Steinbeck. East of Eden
The concept of death with dignity, in all its permutations, is something I've given a good deal of thought....as a health care provider....as a patient. I have witnessed patients and their families endure horrible indignity and pain that make it clear...there ARE fates worse than death. I have experienced enough suffering and seen first hand the potentially devastating effect my own diagnosis could carry such that I know I intend to keep my options open. I have experienced the loss of friends, by their own hands, in sad, lonely circumstances...making me achingly wish that they had felt they had had better options available. My decisions are mine. They are not to be dictated by anyone other than myself. Likewise, choices made by others are theirs alone. I have no right to make their lives, or deaths, more difficult than need be.
The links below attach the the incredible stories of three amazing women. All links include audio and written versions. I encourage you to peruse both, but the audio brings their voices and the voices of their family home....to your heart.
Brittany, a 29 year old with Stage IV glioblastoma, moved with her family to Oregon in order to legally utilize the Death with Dignity Act which allows voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, prescribed by a physician, expressly for that purpose. Here is her story, her family's thoughts, her reasons.....
Brittany-Maynard-death-with-dignity-compassion-choices via People
Kara was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36, now Stage IV. She is profoundly religious, views her struggles as a gift from God in order to draw nearer to him and share his love with others and strenuously opposes the act of suicide even when a disease process is obviously no longer compatible with life. Her story....
A response from Kara Tippetts, mother of 4 dx'd with breast cancer at 36
This NPR report shares the story of Sandra Bem, psychologist and professor at Cornell, as well as prior volunteer for a suicide hotline. She enacted her plan to self-administer a lethal dose of medication once her diagnosis of Alzheimers had rendered her unable to remember much of her own life or follow a movie plot more complicated than Mary Poppins...but BEFORE she lost the ability to recognize and communicate with her family. Here is her story....told by her husband and adult daughter...with their thoughts and love...before, during, and after...
http://www.npr.org - how-a-womans-plan-to-kill-herself-helped-her-family-grieve
It is interesting that included in the report above are the study findings noting families dealt with the death of a loved one who chose death by assisted suicide slightly better than families whose loved ones died of natural disease progression. The investigator notes that the cause of death was most likely NOT the determining factor....but rather "because the dying person prepared their family for the inevitability of their death."
Timshel. - c