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The last taboo?

(30 Posts)
absentgrana Tue 17-May-11 11:47:54

The Swiss are becoming concerned about what they are calling suicide tourism as a result of the numbers of foreigners travelling to the country for assisted suicide. They are considering preventing foreigners from using Dignitas or even closing it down. This news suggests to me that our own government can no longer turn a blind eye and must tackle this issue head on. So far, the consensus seems to be that old and disabled people would be persuaded or browbeaten by family members that they have a duty to die which strikes me as complete tosh and I should like to know what other baby boomers and more seniors think. First, the younger generation in Switzerland (and some other places) do not seem to be pushing their old people into a premature grave so why would our young people do this to us? Second, the will to live is very powerful and we're also quite a bolshie generation so I can't see us quietly lying down and dying just for the kids' convenience. Of course, safeguards would be essential, especially to protect the most vulnerable, but I think rational adults with terminal conditions, especially if they are suffering intolerable pain, should have the option. An option is not the thin end of the wedge of compulsion, whatever MPs say. I don't see the Swiss being any less caring and compassionate about people with terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis or just the frailties of extreme old age seeing out their lives naturally, so why would we in Britain be? I'd really like to know what other people think. By the way, it's not something I'm contemplating; I'm just genuinely interested.

harrigran Tue 17-May-11 12:01:42

Well said absentgrana, just because you are old or a bit of a nuisance does not mean you should be disposed of. My Aunt died two months ago at 97, lived independently until two months before death, active and happy. Another Aunt (83) died last week of a terminal illness and fought to the end, getting up every day, putting on make up and never without nail varnish and hair styled. This Aunt was famed for her high heels and they even travelled with her on the coffin.

HildaW Tue 17-May-11 12:23:50

I do think we really need to open this subject up and talk about it to our families openly Everyone has complex and moving stories to tell and I really think we need to be a lot less squeamish. My darling daughter went through hell because her MiL had chosen not to recognise how ill she was and not let her family know she was not only terminal but likley to go at any minute. The result was a deeply traumatic time for all and a SiL who probably will carry the guilt and shock for a very long time. My girls know that I dont want to hang around if I'm past caring and to do a Natural burial if legislation still does not allow one to be put on the compost heap! Nursing an elderly gentleman in dementia then seeing him suffer in hospital with a broken hip that killed him after 3 weeks has made be very pragmatic about it all. I do appreaciate that many terminal people can have a rich life to the end but sometimes we place too much enphasis on prolonging it when perhaps there may well be great relief to be had in knowing that you can just let go and go. I know that my darling Mum had had enough and although offered more treatment for her cancer was ready to go. We just all need to open up and be honest with ourselves and with our families.

nanafrancis Tue 17-May-11 12:26:15

Everyone chooses how to live their life, so why does it cause such a ruckus when it comes to choosing to die? I'm in full agreement with allowing the choice of euthanasia by someone whose quality of life is nil.
You'd be prosecuted for keeping an animal alive if it was terminally ill and/or in pain.
I also believe in the with-holding of medication to prolong life where there is no hope and to that end (!) both me and HWMBO have made living wills so that our dependants are fully aware that they would only be carrying out our wishes rather than having to make a difficult decision at a time of stress.

HildaW Tue 17-May-11 12:51:23

Well said nanafrancis.

supernana Tue 17-May-11 13:52:20

Absentgrana...I'm agreeing with every wise word you say. I'm almost 70, fit-ish and happy. When, in the mists of time, I feel that my useful life is over due to great distress, mental or physical, then I would gladly take a trip to Dignitas...

lucid Tue 17-May-11 16:17:51

I think the thing about Dignitas is gives you the choice of soldiering on or letting go. I know of someone with severe MS who has registered with Dignitas (it is quite an intense process) but has not taken up the option because said person now feels back in control of her life/death. I,too, am disabled and while it is not something that I would consider right now I do feel that we should all have the right to a decent and respectful death.....

Mamanana Tue 17-May-11 18:00:37

I have been able to take up my grandfather's philosophy because I share his faith. " when my time comes it comes", - until then I live as wisely and compassionately as I am able.
Or in religious language "The lord giveth and the lord taketh away" I wouldn't dream of interfering or imagining that I have that control. What a gift we might give to our nearest and dearest to remain loving through adversity.
A colleague was severely limited by a stroke, and it was touching to see how his life was reflected in the loving care of all those around him.
I'm ready to go, or up 'for the duration' if that's my fate.hmm

annie33 Tue 17-May-11 19:20:30

My next door neighbour died last week from Cancer, at home. She was in tremendous pain. It would have been kind to let her go before this. They offered her a hospital bed but it was too late. I also think its thy will not mine but if there was another way I may concider it.

Doris Tue 17-May-11 20:15:56

I'm in a constant state of two minds about this subject. I am against making it legal as that opens up all sorts of complexities. As much as I hate to say it I still think people should have to put up a bit of a fight to get permission - it takes time and in that time things may change for them. I also believe in 'Thy will, not MY will, be done' but into that you could read that if we are given the knowledge to carry out certain procedures, maybe that's what we should be doing. Does that make sense? It's a real grey area but sometimes we put down animals with great sorrow and dignity in lesser conditions.

nannym Thu 19-May-11 06:48:50

I have already made it quite clear to both my sons that I'm in favour of euthanasia, and as far as I'm concerned it's MY will, not THY will that counts. I've extracted (with some difficulty) promises from them that should I suffer some devastating stroke or accident then they will pursue a Do Not Resuccitate policy if at all possible as requested in my living will.

babyjack Sat 21-May-11 11:02:57

Not long ago the thought of legalised euthanasia was unheard of , I think it will become politically/socially popular as financially it will be impossible to support so many older people.
Old Eskimos walk out into the snow when they become a burden on society maybe this will be our equivalent???

sussexpoet Tue 14-Jun-11 15:18:32

Did you all watch Terry Pratchett's film last night? I was riveted to it. I am a longstanding member of Dignity in Dying (having seen two members of my own family suffer needlessly) and also made a Living Will. What a bunch of hypocrites our government and clergy are! And nobody is attacking disabled people: many of whom lead full and satisfying lives, but the powers that be choose to ignore those of us who demand the choice to leave life how and when we wish. Many medical treatments are not prolonging life; they are prolonging death. Stop me, or I'll rant on all day!

baggythecrust! Tue 14-Jun-11 15:45:12

As someone who has already been talking painkillers every day for 30+ years (I'm now 55), I know there will probably come a time when they're not very helpful and my life will be awful. I would like to be able to choose to say That's enough and die. I'm not expecting it to happen any time soon but I think it will come. In the meantime, maybe I should get that tattoo on my chest in case of a massive heart attack that doesn't quite kill me: Do not resuscitate! It's my life and it's my death, if I choose.

getmehrt Tue 14-Jun-11 16:11:08

Did anyone see the Terry Pratchett documentary on television last night? I missed it but it sounds fascinating and very moving.

Dordor Tue 14-Jun-11 16:30:12

I saw the Terry Pratchett film and the programme that followed it. I was struck by several things. First how very very brave of the man who not only chose when and where to die but let us see it and thereby perhaps be able to discuss and contemplate our own deaths. Secondly that a figure of 200 Swiss a year use Dignitas to leave life. That doesn't suggest that families are queueing up to get rid of "burdens". Thirdly that anti right-to-dies are saying how biased and one-sided TP's programme was as it didn't present the anti-view. Surely as the subject was the right to die, that's a bit like saying the televising of say the Royal Wedding was biased and one-sided and should have included all views of matrimony, monarchy, pageantry, etc etc. (Well perhaps that's not the best example, but I can't think of another at the moment). My Mother and my younger sister died within a few months of each other. Both had living wills, and we were able to follow my sister's wishes of non-interference and being able to die at home, but thanks to an officious doctor, my mother had to suffer an intolerable week in hospital before we got her home again to die peacefully as she wished. She wanted to go on the compost heap too: couldn't manage that, but did get the cardboard coffin, which was interesting . . .

supernana Tue 14-Jun-11 16:33:38

Sadly, I missed the Terry Pratchett documentary. I have numerous health problems and, as I near 70, I am well aware that in the not too distant future, at some point, I may wish to make the decision to die rather than face a very painful/undignified final span. At present, I am totally happy with my lot in life, in spite of my problems. However, I have told my sons, that in the event of a major crisis, I most certainly do NOT wish to be resuscitated.

iloveroses Mon 20-Jun-11 15:01:03

I love having this thread to join. I have always talked to my family about not wanting to go on living for the sake of breathing but because there is something to go on living for.

Surely there is something ass-backwards about keeping us alive for the sake of it. Medical science has brought us to a place where too many people seem to think that it is a failure if anyone dies but we have all to die one day. Doctors strive beyond what many of us would consider reasonable just to keep another breath being forced in or out of us; the Churches are trying to brainwash us into believing that we have no control over our own lives (They belong to GODhmm); and our families are being persuaded that they would be guilty of "pushing" us into a premature death if they do not insist that we should be kept breathing against any evidence that it is pointless and/or painful.

I know that this a purely personal point of view, but I honestly believe that if we all knew that we had a Dignitas "way out" there would be no more suicides than we have at the moment because just KNOWING that we could make the decision for ourselves would enable us to treat each day as a bonus with the knowledge that "Tomorrow (truly) is Another Day"smile.

Joan Mon 20-Jun-11 15:13:39

I do believe that intolerable pain should be enough reason to be given a strong enough dose of painkillers, if you want, even if you know that these pain killers will kill you. There is no excuse, religious, secular, or legal, for allowing a terminally ill person to live in pain.

I do agree that some families might want their oldies to just die, and leave a decent inheritance, but such families are not a reason to let people die in agony. Proper help for such vulnerable people with dreadful families is the answer to that aspect.

Loving families have to risk prosecution if they want to help stop the agony of their terminally ill loved ones. This is not acceptable.

supernana Mon 20-Jun-11 16:28:24

iloveroses - well thoughts, too. smile

sylvia2036 Mon 20-Jun-11 17:43:11

iloveroses - bravo - my sentiments exactly.

FlicketyB Mon 20-Jun-11 21:16:24

. "I do agree that some families might want their oldies to just die, and leave a decent inheritance, but such families are not a reason to let people die in agony. Proper help for such vulnerable people with dreadful families is the answer to that aspect." Sorry, I disagree this is something that is simply impossible to do.

Families who want to expedite the death of an elderly relation will do it quietly, obliquely. Discussions with the elderly relative about worries about paying for care, concerns about the quality of care, especially when there have been so many horror stories about, concerns about grandchildren not getting to university because they cannot afford it, distressing stories of painful deaths in uncaring hospitals Eventually the elderly person will make an 'informed independent' decision to go now rather than let nature take its course.

I worked for a charity for the elderly for some years making home visits and I saw a number of cases of elder abuse or suspected elder abuse where nothing could be done because the elderly person acquiesced in their treatment and refused point blank to do anything to stop the abuse, which was usually financial, but also violence. Some of these cases were known to the police but if the victim will not complain there is nothing that can be done. The elderly person would not act because it meant a daughter knowing what her son was doing, because they could not accept that a son was mentally ill, or a crook. It will be no different with 'voluntary' euthanasia.

From there it would get institutionalised. There is already talk about changing the law to end the lives of pople in a vegetative or 'low awareness' stated. the arguments are the same as for voluntary euthanasia. Some years ago there was a scandal about hospitals putting 'no resuscitation' notices of elderly peoples files without discussion with the person or their relatives.Not because they were terminally ill but because they were old and not worth treating.

It has been reported this week that if you are over 50 you will not always be offered the cancer treatments or heart attack or stroke care that younger people get, even when there is a high probability of a return to full health if the treatment is given. We are already on the slippery slope towards decisions about our deaths being made by nurses doctors and Health Service administrators on financial grounds, although the arguements will, as ever, be emotoinal. I can hear it now 'elderly people are taking up so much of NHS resources that children are dying of cancer because we cannot afford to treat them'.

Nowadays pain is not inevitable, drugs and sedation can see people through to the end. It is what they use when they withdraw hydration and nutrition from patients in a vegitative state to put them out of their misery.

GoldenGran Tue 21-Jun-11 10:23:26

I too am tired of the increasing feeling I get that someone else is in charge of me. I think it is time that we were all treated like grownups, free to make choices in how to live, and in some cases, how to die. However that also carries with it the willingness to take responsibility for our choices and not expect others to carry the can. I think that we should be allowed to die in dignity when suffering from incurable and painful conditions. But some body or authority has to be in place to stop abuse of that and we must be alone in making that choice.However, it is a tricky and sensitive subject, my 100 year old mother-in-law, is near the end now, drifting in and out of sleep and still at times lucid. She has felt that she has been" ready to go", as she puts it, for some time. But she has strong Anglican beliefs and feels it is not up to her to make that choice, and we all have to respect that .

Stansgran Tue 21-Jun-11 10:35:35

It used to be that the doctor in charge could give a potent combination of morphine and something else that made people in pain die happy and pain free but then the hospices came in and people had to plough on to the end with lots of "caring " carers- I worry abot their motives

FlicketyB Tue 21-Jun-11 11:20:30

It is not a choice between kill or cure. Recently I had to draw up an End of Life Plan for an elderly relative where both he and his wife had dementia. After consulting around the family we found that the old mantra served as well today as at any time in the past.

The Mantra is: 'Thou shall not kill but shall not strive officiously to keep alive'. In this case we said that my relative should not be deprived of food or water, even if this meant inserting a drip, and where drugs such as antibiotics or pain killers were required they should be given but that we did not want any further invasive treatments that we already knew would cause distress because he could not understand or remember what was happening or why.

A few months later he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He moved from a care home to a nursing home where he received the care we had requested and died there peacefully and quietly a few months later.