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Sunday, February 12, 2017

The new law....

I have written about this before, the " Medical Aid-in-dying" law but I think it is worth having a perspective from someone who works every day with the "dying".  Also, as this idea has become a Colorado law it is on the mind of everyone who cares for dying folks.  I must say the opinion I voice is my own.....from my years of taking care of the dying...and while you may agree or disagree, here is some food for thought...


I work with the dying almost every day.  I want to state the obvious...being declared someone who is dying, and who has 6 months or less even if that is not how it goes, is difficult.  Do you see the understatement of that sentence?  Have you been a part of a person's life that received that edict?  What was it like?  Did you sit there in disbelief with the person or did you just shut down?  Did you want to cry or wake up from that terrible dream?   Were you or are you that person?

I have been there with a person who was told they were dying.  The person was in my family and it wasn't  the "6 months to a year talk", it was the old, "days to weeks" talk.  It was my worst nightmare and then to tell him over and over "yes" when he asked if the doctor just told him he was really going to die.  Have you been privileged to be with a person that was hearing that about themselves or a loved one?  Count yourself lucky if you haven't had to live through that...


In my family, it was exactly that...days to a week.  He was home just a week and he died.  The new law would not have applied to him even if he wanted to take the pills.  He couldn't have given them to himself and that is part of this law.  You have to be able to administer them to yourself.  Research says that many people get the pills and don't take them.  The pills are wasted and the patient experiences a "normal" dying process.

I think about these folks I care for all the time.  I have seen patients that have been able to continue as usual knowing they were in their last days and I have had folks that cannot.  Some fall into a deep depression and living with the knowing is much harder than dying. Some do very well and the only fear is the end and how it will go...  

 Dying people want control.  They have ridden the roller coaster of treatment, feeling ill from it, questioning if it is helping or hurting them more...then worrying about every ache and pain and wondering if it's the cancer.  Many of the patients I care for in hospice are ready to get off the roller coaster.  They are ready to be in control of what they can.  They understand they have a terminal diagnosis.  They know they are going to die and all they really want is some control or semblance of control of the suffering they perceive at the end.  Most folks come to terms with leaving this earth, they just don't want to suffer.  

Sadly, I have been part of suffering at the end of life.   The suffering can come from pain, inability to breathe easy, inability  to care for oneself, or the disbelief that they are leaving and cannot do anything about it.  It can come from leaving too early...little kids that they won't be able to see grow up, or a grandchild in the womb of a child of their own that they will not meet.  I have sat with these people, tried to plan for it, explained the medications to use, and prayed.  Sometimes there is no solution for them but leaving this earth.  The pain is too great.  I believe that people experience suffering in different ways and having a few pills on the beside table to put an end to it gives a person a sense of control to gauge when enough is enough.  

Don't get me wrong, I am a advocate for hospice care.  I have experienced it with my family members and have cared for many a dying person.  I have watched love permeate every nook and cranny of a house while the adult children loved their parents into heaven.  I have seen husbands care for their elderly wives with such tenderness that I could not speak.  I have seen wives climb into bed to hold their husband for their last earthly breath and not be able to let go once they are gone.  That time at home near the end is holy and profound.   If hospice care is nothing, it is genuine, authentic love in action.  It is also soul shaking and one of the most difficult times that this life gives.  I can say that it is always an honor and a privilege to help people at such a difficult, intimate time.  Most families are so comforted by the love they gave and received during those difficult times.

BUT...

There are also times when a disease process has been lengthy and the dying process is tearing a family apart.  The patient is ready, he or she is done, and wants to go.  They have thought deeply and profoundly about all the ramifications of leaving in this way and have made the choice.  They have discussed it with their family and have made the decision to get the medication.  I am sure it would not be easy to do or to decide to do.  Deciding to stop treatment and receive comfort care is not easy and it takes courage.  Think about the courage it will take for the person to swallow the pills that will permanently close their eyes...

Some people who are against this measure say that it is "playing God" and we are not supposed to do that.  I think it is how you look at all of these things...some folks say that stopping treatment for cancer when all of the treatment has stopped working is "playing God."

Thankfully,  I will not be making the decision for the folks I care for.  They will make it and I will honor the decision and give them all the support and the knowledge I have to help relieve their suffering.  I will sit beside the bed and hold their hand and listen, and I will not judge. I will help love them out of this world, and support their family, whatever they may decide.

And, I am more than happy to sit with God when it is my time and explain why I elected to support folks that were suffering and want to use the law instead of talk them out of it.   I will take responsibilities for my "sins" and hope for the best.

Just think about it...

We'll tawk soon, 
I love you all,
Terry

  






  

2 comments:

Ms. Moon said...

Terry, I dreamed of you last night. It was a long dream and at one point I said to you, "I know I always tell you this but there is a place in my heart that no one but you will ever live in."
I woke up this morning, thinking of you, thinking that you hadn't posted in a while.
And now, tonight, this.
Thank you. Your writing is as good as your heart which is absolutely true and faithful and wise.
I love you forever. Your patients are so lucky to have you. And I am lucky to know you.

Anonymous said...

Your writing always touches me deeply and makes me think and also cry. I hope no one ever makes you doubt the love and compassion and truth you hold in your heart for your patients. It is so real and so beautiful. God is love, God is mercy, God is forgiveness, God is grace. And you dear Terry are filled with all of these. In abundance. Be well and at peace.
Angie D