The potting shed
Central southern Scotland
I remember my dad used to talk about a “good death” I never understood then
Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”
A A Milne
edited July 2018
"We spoke to our lawyer and organised things as best we could but there is No Guarantee your wishes will be carried out."
There is an
advanced directive or living will
you can sign which should make it very clear. I'm not sure about the legal position of enforcing it, in real time, as someone is at end of life. Hospitals carry these forms.
I was very encouraged on Wednesday that the doctors came me - off their own bat - to discuss this with me, when my dad was rushed into hospital. They made the position very clear - my dad could only be offered palliative care and made comfortable. He would be given morphine relief if needed and allowed to peacefully go, as his organs failed. The conversation was very professionally held, clear and tactful but the medical staff had obviously taken a position on any attempt to keep him alive: It would just prolong his pain to drag things out. I very much hope the UK medical professions can openly take this stance on aggregate. It would be a sea change.
We do so need to bring death discussions into daylight, out of the taboo shadows of awkwardness and the sense that these things are morbid or too hard to contemplate. The
Death Cafe movement
Free Wills Network
are doing a lot to try and change the landscape, along with festivals, road shows and the like.
What greater gift can you give your loved ones or yourself than a peaceful, pain-free ending? A chance to embrace a graceful death as you celebrate a cherished life?
Advanced Directives (see below for new terms) are very good, but the staff involved need to know they exist - unfortunately in the NHS records are often not transferred with a patient, though, gradually this is getting better in patches.
Many nurses don't even know what an advanced directive is (I know I am a retired nurse) and many patients don't get ever get asked (have you?) . I am a retired nurse, I once conducted a campaign to ask all patients on our units about this option but the campaign was unsuccessful - we had no uptake. I don't know objectively, but I came to the conclusion that for heatlhy adults it's too easy to put these decisions out of your mind. Frankly, I am doing this myself!
Any statement by a patient in regard to end of term care is technically an advance directive - you don't need to be a legal eagle.
Basically, the NHS
try to comply with the patients wishes providing they are within the law but.....
a] Those dealing with the care need to be acutually aware of those wishes (no good if they are filed away somewhere esle) and...
b] There is a
of often conflicting beauracracy around these matters. here is a taster of what staff have to consider:
Even disclosing the existence of Advanced Directives to relatives is difficult. Not all relatives are sympathetic and supportive (as the stereotype suggests) and not all patients would wish to share this information with all of their family.
Rule of thumb is to make your wishes clear, in writing preferably and let the NHS consider the matters and respond.
Advanced Directives are now called Advanced Decisons and Advanced Statements - clarification here;
In the UK there is also
Power of Attorney over care,
which is best to set up early if you can. This gives relatives more influence over care . The forms are not that daunting (you may not really need a solicitor) and they can give you more sway in the final days
During my career as a nurse, I have seen many deaths, personally I object strongly to the religious position that all life should be preserved at all costs. That's all very well until you see the suffering this can involve. The argument that moving from this position could lead to abuse by relatives, is wrong. Though this might happen in rare cases, it is not beyond the wit of human beings to bring in sufficient safeguards. The present position leads to untold non-consential suffering even by persons with no religious convictions.
You might not wish to read this next paragraph, it's horriific to imagine, but incommensurately more horrific to endure.
I remember a woman with severe dementia (for years) doubly incontinent, unable to move or even feed herself, did not know her own name, with gangrene running up both feet, in extrmeme pain, despite morphine she did nothing but writhe and cry. I was dressing her wounds and her toe dropped off in my hands. I won't give more details but seeing this I fully realised then that to preserve all life under all circumstances is flatly wrong. The prayer's of the minister (which I had arranged) were doing her little good.
I am a humanist, and I know that our national group Humanists UK are running a campaign to change the law on this matter.
I hope the law changes soon
Big Bang Inflation
I, too, am a humanist,
I'm surprised that - or possibly I missed it - no-one has mentioned
I hope it becomes legal soon. I watched two of my grandparents die slow deaths and one grandparent die suddenly. I know which I'd rather have.
My grandad could have been saved from months of suffering if they could have just given him a little too much morphine.
The worst thing for me is that my grandma actively refused treatment but it was forced on her for months up until the very end. She didn't want the machines keeping her alive: she was religious and felt that it wasn't God's plan for her. Once they did turn the machines off she went quite peacefully, as did my grandad.
I don't believe in keeping people alive when they have no quality of life. Just because we can do something it doesn't mean we should.
I am a Christian, but I don't believe in preserving life at all cost. Christians believe you shouldn't kill, but I don't see what that has to do with helping someone who is ill, in pain and who will die anyway to have as peaceful and pain free death as possible. I was also a nurse and morphine was used to help with this when I was young which I thought was a merciful thing to do. But nowadays I'm afraid that doctors are afraid of getting into trouble or being accused of euthanasia when it still isn't legal so that they are more reluctant to help people to die in a merciful manner. Assisted death in a controlled and caring manner should be legal if it is the wish of the patient or their relatives if the patient is no longer capable. I have agreed with a lot that has been said, and very well expressed, on here.
Dordogne and Norfolk