Death with Dignity laws

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The recent death of a 29-year old woman who chose to use the Death with Dignity law in Oregon has invigorated the debate about our right to make choices about our healthcare at the end of our life. Brittany Maynard had a brain tumor that doctors said would end her life in a most undignified manner and she chose not to experience that part of her illness. She completed her Bucket List and enjoyed the last quality time she could with her husband and parents, and died peacefully at the time of her choosing at home in her own bed surrounded by those who loved her.

If you are facing such a decision, whether you are thinking about the Death with Dignity option or not, this book by a Near-Death Experiencer, will help you find acceptance and peace of mind as you navigate medical decisions, care options including palliative and hospice services, conversations with family and providers, filling out Advance Healthcare Directives and making decisions about how your want to die.

Beyond the Veil is for caregivers who will be transition guides for their loved ones, for families to help them have the necessary conversations, and for the dying person who wants desperately to know what is happening to them along their journey home.

Excerpt from Beyond the Veil: our journey home by Diane Goble about Death with Dignity laws:

Reasonable laws can prevent abuse while honoring self-respect, human dignity and compassion. Just as an obstetrician might administer a drug to hasten a birth, a doctor may prescribe a drug that will hasten not death but the rebirth of our spiritual nature. Prepared ahead of time and guided by a transition guide’s voice reading one’s Personal Transition Guidebook, it is a peaceful journey home beyond the veil.

Some people believe it is a slippery slope to allow this at all. They are afraid mentally or physically disabled or senile elderly people will be murdered for convenience. Perhaps in some societies where human life isn’t valued that could be true. It is up to those who believe in death with dignity to make sure laws are in place to prevent forced euthanasia by designating medical professionals and safe procedures to provide humane, compassionate assistance to those who decide of their own free will to exercise this option.

A May 2005 Galllup Poll indicated that 75% of Americans support “euthanasia” for certain patients but only 58% support “doctor-assisted suicide” for the same patients. Use of the term “suicide” was the only difference in the question asked. The Gallup Poll conclusion was that the use of the word caused the apparent conflict in values.

Opponents count on the negative emotional impact of the term. Calling it “suicide” or “murder” conjures up images that clash with religious beliefs and humanitarian values, but have nothing to do with personal choice at the end of life.

This is what Dr. Jack Kervorkian fought for–a patient’s right to choose and the physician’s role at end of life. It’s nobody’s business except the person who is dying, his physician and his family members (and sometimes not the latter). It’s continuing care through the end of life.

Instead of physicians abandoning their patients at the end of their invasive medical treatment options, they could stay with them to provide the medication that will quickly end their suffering if that is their patient’s final request.

Their Hippocratic oath says, firstly, do no harm, but if forcing a person to stay alive while their body  progressively deteriorates for years, whether physically or mentally, isn’t doing harm, I don’t know what is. Seems to me physicians need a better understanding of compassion. Continuing to swear an oath to Greek gods is out of touch with contemporary reality–the earth is not flat and doctors are not gods.

Having “The Conversation” about End of Life Healthcare Planning

The Nugget, Sisters, Oregon – October 15, 2014

Having “The Conversation”

By Diane Goble

Ever since Ben Franklin warned us, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” we’ve been diligently planning for everything — college, career path, marriage, children, home buying, vacations, retirement — everything, that is except our inevitable end of life. We don’t want to think about that so we tend to ignore it or postpone dealing with it, often until it’s too late. We live in the state of denial that keeps us oblivious to the unthinkable fact that this day could be our last on earth.

Hopefully that’s not true for you this day, but statistically, in this country, 1 person dies every 3 seconds, approximately 6800 of us every day, 2,468,435 every year. Most people die from health-related conditions, including (in order) heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases (COPD) and stroke. Accidents are next down the list. All of these are, to some degree, preventable, treatable, manageable, mitigated by medical care and healthy lifestyle changes, and most of us will survive to live the life we planned to a ripe old age.

And that’s part of the problem. Health care has improved, we’re making progress with many cancers, we’ve recognized the problem of obesity and we’re eating healthier and exercising more so we’re living longer but we’re getting diseases now that people didn’t use to get because they died at earlier ages — Alzheimer’s Disease, in particular, but also emphysema, COPD, Parkinson’s Disease, and diabetes. And with the aging Boomer population, we wonder will there be rationing of medical services.

The health care system has us focused on treatments that almost kill us in order to make us better so we can live longer and get more diseases for them to treat. At the same time there are more people in need of care, there are also fewer doctors and medical services are stretched thin.

And within this maelstrom of activity is the elephant in the room. At some point, we are all going to die — but no one wants to admit it or talk about it and certainly know one wants to plan for it. We always think there will be more time.

This is a quote from this correspondent’s soon to be released book on amazon.com, Beyond the Veil: Our Journey Home, from a woman named Kathy who shared her experience of not planning ahead:

While we had gradually acknowledged to each other that he might not make it, we’d never really accepted it or talked about what it meant. I always thought we’d have a period of time when he was in hospice care when we would talk more and say our goodbyes. While I, and my kids, said lots of goodbyes and I love yous while he was in a coma, he was never able to communicate with us again. I still replay those last few days over and over and wonder how we didn’t know he was so close to the end and wonder if he knew.

There is a lesson in this: to say the things we want to say while we can – and it illustrates why it is so important to plan for the end of our lives, not just for our selves, but for our loved ones as well. We won’t know how we are going to die, where we will be when it happens, who will be with us or if we will be alone, but we can make our choices known about how we want to be treated at that crucial time, which will guide our loved ones to follow our wishes.

We do have some options and they are more likely to be honored if we have discussed them with our family members and doctors, appointed a healthcare representative who supports our wishes through our Advance Healthcare Directive so physicians will know what we want and don’t want if it comes down to that. The biggest hurdle is sitting down to have the conversation.

Realize that this is not a one-time conversation. It may occur in bits and pieces — a question at the dinner table, a comment during a TV program or news story, a shared article from a magazine, a book, a website, a post on Facebook. Over time and with new information or health concerns, you may change your mind several times.

You may have a conversation with your doctor or a clergy member that provides some new insight or clarifies your values. After seeing what another family went through, you may decide you do or don’t want that to happen to you. Visiting a friend in hospice care may change you mind about how soon you would want to bring hospice services into your life or the life of a family member. Advance Healthcare Directives are changeable and should be reviewed every 5 years or as you health changes.

No matter how old you are — and perhaps this is something everyone should do when they first get their driver’s license because those are extremely vulnerable years for accidents — no matter what your health status is, the time to have these important conversations is when you are healthy and mentally competent to make decisions. By the time you are in an ambulance, in the ER, or on your deathbed, it is too late. Leaving it to your distraught family members to decide what you would want during dire circumstances is setting them up for unending grief and trauma over whether they did they right thing — no matter what they did or didn’t do.

Fortunately, right here in Sisters, there are several people, including Kelsey Collins, Sue Stafford, myself and others, who are available to help people sort through the information about Medicare, home health care, palliative care, hospice services, Advance Healthcare Directives, POLST and Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. Talk to your doctor, talk to your spiritual adviser and by all means, talk with your family about your last wishes — then you don’t have to think about it anymore!

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Planning Your Assisted-Suicide

I live in Oregon so I can legally request the

Death With Dignity option

at the time I deem appropriate if I choose, so I’ve thought about what medical treatments and interventions I would or wouldn’t accept and how I would want to die if this or that happens to my body and/or mind, whenever it happens.

I’ve been involved with this issue long enough (see article)– I was a hospice volunteer off and on for over 20 years, I’ve sat with numerous people and their families as they lay dying, I’ve been a caregiver and a counselor to the dying, I had a near-death experience 40 years ago (see article)– and I understand more about death and dying than most people who try not to think about it at all.

Most folks have opinions related to self-preservation, love of family and their life, or religious dogma, but a narrow perspective of the whole issue. So I’m just going to think out loud here to give others some food for thought… with the caveat that you continue this conversation with someone immediately after reading this and get to work on your own Advanced Healthcare Directive.

I’m 70+ so there’s that. Having seen first hand and studied what happens to the body and the mind of the majority of people as they age, I acknowledge my personal limits. Knowing my body and what I’ve done to it and for it, I’m hoping to live healthy to at least 75 but no longer than 80. Closer to 75, more likely. Beyond 80 things seem to fall apart more rapidly and sitting in front of a TV all day in an assisted living home with a bunch of other half comatose people is not something I could take for more than a minute. Lying in a  hospital bed staring at the ceiling with no hope of ever getting up again would be intolerable.

Now I know there are some 90-year olds still driving and playing golf or milking the cows and tilling the fields,  but that’s not me. There are also some 60-year old, overweight couch potatoes, who can hardly walk from the couch to the refrigerator any more.They’re on multiple medications with multiple side effects and are mostly miserable most of the time.

One’s past habits and lifestyle have a lot to say about how fit we will be in our old age, and we should be aware of our genes and our base lines so we can keep track of our physical health as we age. If you’re 40 and have diabetes, you’re not likely to make it to experience much of old age. If you haven’t cared about your health during your life, you’re not likely to have a healthy older age.

Of course one can always get hit by a bus or have a heart attack or get shot by a wacko on his own suicide mission. Personally if I’m too far gone and it would take too much or too long to restore me to a reasonable state of health, I would opt not to be resuscitated in the first place.

Certainly cracking open my rib cage, cutting off any limbs or hooking my body up to artificial life support are completely off the table. I want not to live without full use of my limbs or cognitive processes so don’t even think about it. If my heart stops, let me be. If I come back on my own, this time, I’ll talk about it. If my mind starts to disappear, you can bet I’ll be working on my suicide plan, physician-assisted or not, before I forget who my loved ones are.

So you have this pain or these symptoms you’ve been ignoring but it’s suddenly gotten worse and you can’t do things you used to be able to do so you finally go to a doctor and they run a bunch of tests and tell you that you have cancer of the blahblah and they’re going to have to take out your blahblah and then you’ll have to have radiation and chemo and then maybe you’ll have a few good months left but every case is different and they just know you’re going to beat this so here, sign these papers and let’s get started.

And you go… WTF? Because you never thought about it before, never allowed yourself to think it might happen to you or someone you love. You didn’t hear a word the doctor said after “cancer.” Your mind went blank and you felt like the elevator just dropped 20 floors in a second.

You are now spinning out of control but your doctor has moved on to the next patient to give him or her the same devastating news and you’re left to gather your wits and find your way home to tell your loved ones… but the only word that comes out of your mouth is… cancer or brain tumor or kidney failure or multiple sclerosis. Suddenly you’re a dead man walking.

You’ve never thought about it before? Never asked anyone what their thoughts are? Never asked someone who is dying what they think about? Would you want everything done? Do you even know what “everything” means? How much of you abilities are you wiling to do without just to see the next football game on TV?

You suddenly black out and wake up hooked up to machines in an ICU, paralyzed so you don’t try to rip out the tubes and  lines, surrounded by strangers with masks on looking down at you and one of them says sprightly, “Welcome back, Mr. Jones. We thought we’d lost you.”

And you’re thinking, “OMG, I was having this wonderful out-of-body experience. I was surrounded by loving beings of light and you brought me back to this? I’ll kill everyone of you!” But you can’t speak, you can’t move. Those people out there think you’re not aware, but you’re aware of everything, you just can’t do anything about it.

You’re wishing you had written that Advanced Healthcare Directive indicating you wanted no extraordinary measures to keep you alive if you were in this unfathomable condition. Unless you have a few lucid moments to state otherwise or can at least blink your eyes if asked, it is now beyond your control. You could end up a living, breathing vegetable for years.

If one is born disabled or becomes disabled through accident or illness, there is a whole added dimension to thoughts about one’s death. Depending on how dependent you are on others for care and whether you are able to communicate or are even aware of what’s happening, decisions are difficult, riddled with guilt and fear, no one ever sure they did the right thing. If you could convey your wishes, what would they be?

Assisted dying is not an option under the current laws unless you can self-administer. It has been tested by brave people with ALS and MS in the U.S. and foreign courts but euthanasia, which allows a physician to administer a life-ending drug to a person who is unable to self-administer because of their disability, is considered murder and many people fear that is opening assisted dying up to a slippery slope that could lead to the wholesale killing of the most vulnerable among us– the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, the poor.

Instead of showing compassion for those who are wrestling with these very personal decisions, some groups of religious protestors and bio-ethicists use fear and scare tactics, dredging up images from the Holocaust and other genocides, or hellfire and eternal damnation, to keep everyone from having control of how they end their own lives. These moral absolutists feel they are right and everyone else is wrong, and they have to protect us wayward relativists from ourselves as if we had no values. We do, just not the same as theirs.

I value human life as part of our eternal spiritual journey, I just don’t believe in the sanctity of life as the right to lifers do. Theirs is a religion based on fear and a judgmental god. I believe our Free Will gives us the right to determine when the quality of our life has fallen below our level of tolerance; that we should have the right to decide when it’s our time to die, and be able to ask our doctor to help us by giving us a prescription that will allow us to chose the time and circumstances of our own death.

Physicians, pharmacists and hospitals who provide a public benefit to a diverse society cannot impose their personal religious beliefs or moral values on patients at the end of their lives any more than at any other time in their lives. They work for us, we hire them… they are not the boss of us!

The alternative, if one is able, may be to blow your brains out or jump off a bridge or throw yourself in front of a train. What a mess! How much more peaceful and spiritual to take a pill and just go to sleep. Would you rather your family watch you suffer or allow you to die in peace? How much better for your family to be by your side instead of you having to go off like an animal to die alone.

A good way to count oneself down is to make a list of 100 things you do every day and cross items off as you can’t do them anymore until you’re down to the last 5 or 10 or 20, wherever you draw the line, then call your doctor for your prescription, pick it up when you are ready, gather your family together to say your goodbyes and have a final toast to your good death and peaceful journey home.

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How do you make end of life healthcare decisions?

Of a certain age…

by Diane Goble, Columnist, The Nugget News, April 16, 2014

My best friend just had her second mastectomy last week. In the last two years, she’s had her gall bladder removed, a lumpectomy, a mastectomy and now this one. She says the good news is that she’s lost 20 pounds and can see her toes again!

She has several messages on her cell phone asking her to call another oncologist for follow- up. She’s procrastinating. “It’s not in my lymph nodes so I’m not going for radiation or chemo,” she says. “I’m done with the medical stuff.” She insists she’s going to eat better, exercise more, take up yoga and meditation, and try to be as healthy as possible until she dies. She’s contemplating an artistic tattoo to obscure her now breastless chest.

That’s the rub. You can go through all the treatments and deal with all the side effects of them– sick as a dog and wanting to die most of the time. You maybe get a few good months and then it comes back with a vengeance and you die anyway. The outcome is the same. The difference is the quality of life in between.

This doesn’t have any thing to do with age. My friend is in her 60s, five years younger than I am. It can happen to us at any time in our lives. We have jobs to get to, children to raise, relationships to deal with, bills to pay, retirement to plan for, and then suddenly we have to make these decisions about what we want and don’t want because we are diagnosed with a serious illness or have a life-threatening accident.

I had a stage IV melanoma a while back. Had the Moh’s surgery, no problems, no lymph node involvement. That follow-up oncologist wanted to do radiation and possibly chemo, but I said no thanks. I’ve been in remission for almost 8 years. That doesn’t mean it won’t still come back. One or two spots I’d probably have them removed but that with a vengeance thing not so much. I’ll start planning for the end of my days.

I don’t have a problem with dying. I did that once. Drowned. It was a fantastic journey home and back again. I expect it to be the same the next time, only without the back again, so I look forward to moving on to what comes next… because I know there’s a next. Of course I’ll miss my family and friends but I know I’ll see them again soon.

My concern is more about what will happen to me while I’m still in a body. I refuse to put up with Alzheimer’s. Any inkling of that and I’m making my going away party plans before I forget how! I’ve filled out my Advance Healthcare Directive and appointed a non-family member as my healthcare representative so my children don’t have to make any decisions. They don’t want to talk about it so I sent them their copies and included a video of me telling them my decisions about what I want and don’t want. I’d opt for a heart attack over a prolonged illness, but if it were an illness, I’d be working on the paperwork process for physician aid-in-dying the moment I got that 6 months to live diagnosis then I’d keep working my Bucket List!

So how does one decide what they want at the end of their life? It has to be based on one’s own beliefs and values, not forced on you by someone else’s biases. Talk to your family, your doctor, your spiritual advisor, search your soul, search the Internet… meditate, pray, talk to God or a tree. Educate yourself about the process. There are some good videos out these days about death and dying– “Consider the Conversation,” “How to Die in Oregon,” “The Day I Died: The mind, the brain, and near-death experiences.” The more you know, the better decisions you can make about your own healthcare at the end of life.

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day… think about it!

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What if death is… ?

Death is always a loss no matter how you look at it and it doesn’t mean there won’t be grief, but what if…?

  • What if dying is actually a wonderful, exciting experience as near-death experiencers have described?
  • What if dying is an opportunity to celebrate the end of a wonderful human experience and a joyous return to our spiritual home and family?
  • What if death is our graduation from the University of Life on Earth and we go on to have other amazing experiences exploring consciousness at higher levels, being co-creators with God?
  • What if all those who have transitioned before us are there to greet us, and those we leave behind join us again almost before we know it because there is no time?
  • What if we exist in a multi-dimensional universe in many different forms in many different frequencies of endless possibilities?
  • What if consciousness doesn’t arise from matter, but creates matter?
  • What if our True Nature is continuous and our human lifetimes are breathing spaces along our eternal journey?
  • What if our human lives are not completely predestined and we have the free will to choose to break the cycle of death and rebirth, and move into higher consciousness and higher dimensions?
  • What if we can accelerate our progress by practicing the art of conscious dying during each human lifetime we experience?
  • What if we make the spiritual connection in a human lifetime and go directly into the Light at transition, thereby propelling our soul into the next dimension?

How wonderful would that be?

• • • • • • •

Excepted from new book by Diane Goble

Stepping into the Light

Reframing death from a Near-Death Experience perspective

(due out in June 2014)

Vote YES for Death with Dignity laws

Please watch this video and vote with your heart for what you know is the right thing to do…

Vote YES for physician-assisted dying when it comes up in your state before another family has to suffer like this family did, still is, will always. For Nattie’s sake, allow all of us the right to make the choice depending on our own circumstances.

 

Book Recommendations from Diane Goble

Visions of Heaven

A Journey through the Afterlife

by Lisa Miller

In her article in “Time,” aptly posted at 12:01 AM on Easter Sunday, Lisa Miller begins with the question–

If you’ve seen heaven, does that mean it exists?

time_visionsheaven_trade_hi_res_frnttThe article is adapted from her above book, Visions of Heaven, in which she takes us on a journey through the afterlife through history, art and recent scientific research.

I’ve taken a 40-year journey myself in my quest for understanding, not just my own near-death experience but those of others, which led me through the history of religions and into the realms of quantum physics, the supernatural and psychedelics. You can read some of it in my ebook Sitting in the Lotus Blossom. I look forward to reading Ms. Miller’s book and will write a review here after I do.

•  •  •  •  •  •  •

The Last Adventure of Life

Inspiring approaches to living and dying

by Maria Dancing Heart Hoaglund

I highly recommend this new release by a dear friend and colleague Maria Dancing Heart Hoaglund for anyone dealing with a life-threatening illness or who is a caregiver for someone who is very ill or near death, or for anyone who is sitting in a hospital waiting room watching over a loved one. This is the 4th incarnation of her life-affirming guide into our last adventure of life.

2d1828a3c7a3f1783f3fabce59fc0bc2As a Transition Guide myself, I recommend her books to all those I come in contact with in my work with the dying. I require it of my students and have given copies to many of my senior friends.

Maria moved to Sedona, Arizona a year or so ago, as you can see from her book’s beautiful  cover, where she has flourished as a hospice minister and end of life counselor.

If you have a friend or loved one who is grieving or nearing the end of  life or is caring for an ill loved one and is open to talking about new ways to explore spirituality and death, or if you yourself are facing this journey in the near future, I  suggest this book as a compassionate companion along the way.

The book  is filled with inspirational stories, poems, prayers, scriptures and guided meditations supported by chapters on grief, relaxation tools and additional reference materials that will help readers reframe their experience of death into one of transition and transformation– a new adventure of life into the true nature of Reality.

Click on book cover to order from amazon.com

Referral service for end-of-life suicide assistance

When I first read this news release put out by  Right to Life News Today, I laughed all the way through it and kept thinking “Thank God! How else are people going to find an assisted living facility where they can have control at the end of their lives?”

But that wasn’t the intent of the author, an attorney for the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, the National Right to Life Committee’s “arm in fighting to protect the vulnerable born from both direct killing and denial of lifesaving medical treatment, food and fluids.” This group opposes “infanticide and euthanasia with the same determination and vigor with which it fights abortion.”

The author was ranting about a referral service for senior living centers that also provided educational information about end-of-life planning, including the Death With Dignity law through Compassion and Choices of Washington (which has a Death With Dignity law in place).

It’s no wonder he called Compassion and Choices an “euthanasia advocacy organization.” They have that euthanasia mind-set without the understanding of the difference between killing a person without their consent and allowing a competent person to request a medication that will end his or her life near the end of  life, peacefully and painlessly.

This self-righteous attitude implying that what they think is ethical applies to everybody else just doesn’t work in this world anymore and to think they can force their religious claptrap and moral absolutist values on the rest of us is ludicrous.

I understand the concern for wholesale killing of the disabled and elderly and other so-called vulnerable people, but attempting to dictate to adults who have made their own decisions all their lives as if they are incapable of making the right choices about the end of their lives, is completely dictatorial, paternalistic and unconscionable.

Apparently they are opposed to this referral service educating the public about all issues relating to senior care and end-of life care that doesn’t fit their protocols. They don’t like the thought of a “Client Support Volunteer” from Compassion and Choices being available to assist the dying person and the family to be sure the law is followed and there are no mistakes, coercion, or prolonged suffering.

If these Right to Lifers want to be humane and constructive, instead of trying to scare people into believing their dreadful propaganda, they could provide the “information about suicide prevention services, or how to access available medical resources for the counseling and medication that can treat suicidal depression” that they complain Compassion and Choices doesn’t provide. Although, first, they need to learn the difference between suicidal depression and being ready to let go at the end of life– big difference.

Give people choices and trust them to make the right decisions about the end of their own lives. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it!

At the end of his blog, he provides a phone number and suggests you call this referral service and tell them how disappointed you are that they promote an assisted suicide advocacy group, that you won’t use their services and will tell all your friends not to either.

I called them and said “Thank you for being there.”

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Death With Dignity– right or wrong?

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The thing about laws in this country is that there is a separation between Church and State. To me that means just because some church or religion has a rule about something based on their beliefs that doesn’t make it a law of the land. They can’t impose their beliefs on the rest of us. They may express their opinion, and it should be taken into consideration in debates, but they can’t bully the rest of us with their derogatory statements or by pouring money into negative advertising to get their own way.

Calling aid-in-dying “assisted suicide” is inflammatory and demeaning to people who are dying. It is heinous attempt to frighten people, who are already frightened because they or someone they know may be dying, to coerce them into thinking they would be committing murder or suicide, let alone incurring God’s wrath. These may be the kind of tactics some people use to scare people into supporting their cause, but they do not speak for the majority as polls have so often shown.

It’s all well and good that certain religious groups want to protect vulnerable people from being murdered for convenience (and they should be), but to impose their view of morality on others, especially in personal and family matters, is beyond arrogance and presumption.

There are people who believe in the sanctity of life– that it is a gift from God and only God determines the time of death.

There are people who believe taking one’s own life is a sin, punishable by eternal damnation.

There are people who believe suffering has some redemptive value and should not be interfered with by hastening death.

There are people who believe when life is over, that’s it, dust to dust– so it does not matter what you do while you’re here. There is no God, no Heaven, no Hell. The ones with the most toys while they’re here, win.

There are those who believe one must follow the practices of a certain religion to get into “heaven” or be rewarded.

There are those who believe in a loving and forgiving God who welcomes everyone home.

There are those who believe that leaving one’s body is an adventure we get to go on at the end of this life, who look forward to their transition.

There are those who believe we are light beings who pass in and out of physical environments and less dense dimensions of the Universe as part of a greater journey, and death is just a transformation.

How do we take into account all these different beliefs when creating laws to regulate end-of-life procedures while protecting the vulnerable?

We give patients the right to make their own decisions, according to their own beliefs, regarding the care and treatment of their own body at the end of their lives, including when to end their own lives if they so choose… with the caveat that it’s a well-considered, educated decision. But it’s their business, not mine or yours or anybody else’s… least of all the government or the hospital or insurance companies or any religious group.

Protections need to be in place to prevent force or coercion. Hopefully we’ve learned from the atrocities and genocides of the past and have no need to repeat them. The elderly, the terminally-ill and people with disabilities need to make their wishes for future healthcare planning known while they are capable of doing so. They get to choose.

Those who want to do everything, try everything, fight on no matter what or how long, should write that in their Advance Directives. People who choose no treatment or to stop treatments and let nature take its course should have that written down.

Those who want to opt out early should be able to request a prescription for life-ending medication and not be forced to starve themselves to death or suffer unbearable agony. It has to be written down and Advance Healthcare Directives have to be honored.

This whole thing about whether a dying person asking for a lethal prescription is depressed is just ridiculous. They’re not just having a bad day, their boyfriend didn’t just break up with them, they don’t want to die… they are dying. Their doctor has told them there is nothing else to be done… go home, get your affairs in order, call hospice, you have 6 months or less to live. They have thought long and hard about this and made their decision with a clear mind before they made their request. And statistics show that most people who make the request don’t end up taking the pills. Just knowing they had the option was the comfort they needed and they are able to die peacefully at home in their own bed.

Then we have doctors who are against participating in assisting a dying patient by writing a prescription knowing if the patient takes it, it will end his life. They have their oath of do no harm, give no poison. They became doctors to heal people, not to kill them. Even though doctors and nurses are presumably the most qualified to administer drugs, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists say it is contrary to the Hippocratic Oath and would erode the public trust in medical professionals.

When it comes to capital punishment, medical ethics prevent doctors from participating in executions and they apply the same rationale to dying people not on death row. What often happens in prisons is that lethal injections are carried out by inexperienced technicians which increases the possibility of mistakes that can cause complications. What happens at home without proper medical care, when people take matters into their own hands, is often botched suicide attempts with dire consequences.

What is needed is a new medical specialty to insure proper administration of life-ending drugs and personal attention to  patients to assure a peaceful transition according to their last wishes. Patients need to be fully informed of procedures, effects, timelines, and so on, and the family about what to expect and how to plan by a competent, comforting person. This could be retired doctors or nurses who have the compassion to help people die on their own terms because prescriptions can be written and proper assistance rendered, and certain regulations need to be in place to assure death with dignity. We can work this out so medical care doesn’t end until after death.

It isn’t a matter of right or wrong; it’s a matter of choice.

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Assisted Dying debate on TV show

I gave up TV about 4 years ago (which has made a huge difference in my life, you should try it, just for 30 days and see what I mean) but after all these years I still keep up with one drama via the Internet… Grey’s Anatomy. It takes place in a hospital in Seattle and concerns the daily activities of doctors as do their work, Dr. Grey being one of the main characters. In a recent story line, a surgeon and former Chief of Staff of the hospital, is accidentally electrocuted and subsequently revived by extraordinary medical technology and drastic surgical interventions. He comes out of surgery barely alive, in a coma, on life support.

Does he have an Advance Healthcare Directive? Yes, great. Who did he appoint as his healthcare representative? Dr. Grey who is the daughter of a prominent doctor with whom the Chief had an affair many years ago and who is her superior? He didn’t bother to mention this little detail to her and it came as a complete shock. Not to mention that she was currently in the hospital after an emergency surgery during which she nearly lost her baby. She could barely think much less make a decision about her boss’ life or death.

There was pandemonium all around, everyone trying to figure out what to do with the comatose doctor. What would he have wanted? Surely he would have wanted everything and one doctor kept forcing treatments on him in his own best interests. Others thought it was time to let him go and argued to stop drastic measures.

Well, blahblahblah, more stuff happened and then he actually regains consciousness and sees what has happened to him, all hooked up to this and that, and he pitches a fit. He refuses this, refuses that, let me go, let me go. And this other doctor keeps shoving things in him and making him stay alive.

Cut to another patient who is clearly dying and the doctors are telling him there’s nothing more they can do. He needs to get his affairs in order and call hospice… and he pitches a fit. He wants everything, every test, every clinical trial, every new drug or surgery… bring it all on, I’m not going to die.

Turns out the same doctor who is trying to keep her Chief alive is also treating this dude who refuses to accept death as an option. After much back and forth discussions about choices, she puts the two men in the same room together to let them work it out. Not funny, but it was quite funny… the looks they gave each other!

What I find interesting about this is that this conversation is getting into mainstream homes and more people are going to start realizing how important it is to talk to your loved ones and your physician about end-of-life choices and filling out Advance Healthcare Directives so your wishes are carried out.

I’m hoping since their hospital is in the state of Washington where the Death With Dignity Act is law that they will take the story line to that level to help more people understand that it’s not about killing people, it’s about letting people die when they are ready to let go near the end of their lives on their own terms.

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