Friday, May 10, 2013

Time to Change our End of Life Rules

“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
--Joseph Nye Welch
I can’t imagine any scenario where the end of a love one’s life is joyous. It is frequently rationalized and justified that the dying person is in a better place in order to make the survivors feel a bit better, but the departing loved one just went through several circles of hell to get there.
The end of life is not a pleasant production. There are hallucinations, painful, poignant, and pleasant memories, combined with some sad good-byes. There is the blue book of death ”Gone From My Sight, The Dying Experience” by Registered Nurse Barbara Karnes that Kaiser Healthcare provides to its patients in between fighting for palliative or hospice care, that explains what signs to be cognizant of during a love one’s last day(s).
Experts, specialists, and medical staff can recognize all the signs from decreasing appetite, disorientation, physical changes, and breathing patterns, but yet we do not allow the patient or the love one to make the call to leave their mortal coil. We would never let our pets suffer the way our society demand we have to suffer the indignities of the Grim Reaper’s visit, but we have to let our parents and other love ones go through the opprobrium of having everything shut down before we allow the life to ebb from their bodies.
Why is that? It seems there are reasons from religion’s rules to legal liabilities that continue to allow people to suffer until everything stops working, no matter how painful, even if morphine is of little help.
After jumping through hoops in contorted positions, one is lucky if hospice shows up in a timely fashion to ease the pain. The hospice people seem friendly and sympathetic; maybe it’s because they know how hard it was to finally reach this point of care.
On Mother’s day last year, I was on the phone demanding morphine and calling the caregiver from his family dinner to get his butt back to ease my father’s suffering. It is approaching the one-year of my dad’s passing and now my uncle is preparing to go. Yet, my relatives have gone through the same difficult stages. My uncle realized his time was approaching and told them that he was ready to go, but no. They explained he’d have to go to Oregon to die with that kind of dignity.
What a shame that a convicted killer can come closer to getting his/her request for death honored easier than you or I can at the end of our life. 
“…I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.”
--Joseph Nye Welch

 photo by RJW