Submitted Story - Good death and bad death

  • October 28, 2015

I wonder, frequently, about the contact that those who campaign against the concept of assisted dying have had with loved ones going through an elongated and and traumatic end of life. Euthanasia is literally translated as “Good Death”. The obvious opposite is a “Bad Death”.

Let me tell you about a bad death.

My mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. A Partial Mastectomy and Radiotherapy followed with good results, and she was able to continue on as before. However, the cancer returned, and in a far more aggressive state. Having become far more malignant, it spread from her Breast, to her bones. Specifically her spine. Then her Brain.

She had expressed a desire, during a more lucid moment, to go for a walk and go and step in front of a bus. All that was left was the promise of diminishing mental function, disorientation, full time hospital care, and wasting away over a period until such time as she could take no more.

I was visiting 3 times a week. I had removed her car, enacted enduring power of attorney and arranged for home visits and meals on wheels. In a short time (less than 2 weeks after meals on Wheels), it became apparent that she could not look after herself because of her deteriorating mental state. She could not remember how many grandchildren she had, and was perpetually confused. Her physical state was also telling, with her starting to waste away.

Within a few months, she had become completely uncommunicative, incontinent, incoherent, and emaciated. The once strong vibrant woman who had outlived 2 husbands while raising 2 kids had become exactly what she had wished to avoid. When you see the loved ones in your life become so debilitated, because the law states that a person must suffer to their last simply to mollify the religious sensibilities of people who have no skin in the game at play, then you become acutely aware that the law is not working in the best interests of the most vulnerable.

Some will look at me as some sort of barbarian for wanting to kill my own mother. I still wish she could be with us. It’s been over a decade now. I did not want her to die then, but I know that death is inevitable, but a bad death need not be. I don’t want to die, and I certainly don’t want to die like my mother. When the end comes for me, (many years from now I hope!) I hope that those who would prefer that I suffer to the last because of their beliefs, have no influence on the choices that I could make. Mortality is assured, suffering need not be.