The terrifying torture of hitting “the wall”

I think if you’re suffering from something terminal, whether that terminus is immediate or not, end of life counseling, knowing that you are able to have relief, final relief, when you can’t take it any more gives you an enormous calm, a calmness that I think may be hard to relate to if you haven’t lived in constant pain that has little prospect of ever going away. And perhaps it seems counter-intuitive, but getting end-of-life counseling also extends life I think, by taking away the great fear that comes with lack of control over life’s conclusion — a control that I strongly disagree should be left to fate (or worse yet, a ghoulish medical system that sometimes extends a life that has devolved into nothing but agony at any cost).

Canada is considering C-384, a brave bill that I strongly support which amends the criminal code to allow doctors and patients a little more control over the way they live the later portion of their life, and what sort of response you can get when you’re lying in a hospital bed, or even a home bed, in pain and unable to do anything but mouth the word “help”, and it’s something that I very much hope passes and if you’re in the position to speak to your representative, I hope you tell them that you support it — and same goes in the US, as this “special comment” video below discusses and lays bare the pain of.

14 Comments

  1. MissJanet wrote:

    My grandmother had a stroke that left her paralysed and unable to speak, gesture, read or write. She was 68 and lived to 73. My father had exactly the same stroke at 68, he is now 72. I don’t want to experience their suffering and continued helplessness. But here in germany it is basically impossible to even talk about controlling my own dead, you know euthanasia and Third Reich, which I understand fully, but damn, I would really like to have some alternatives before I wake up in a hopsital bed, unable to move, speak or take care of my own business. I don’t believe in the “Golden Years” anyway.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink
  2. Shannon wrote:

    I have no aversion to old age, but I have no aversion to dying tomorrow. I’ve got people who I would miss, if that were possible, but I’ve lived such a wonderful life that I would not feel cheated. I would however feel cheated if I was old (or young I suppose), with no prospect for recovery, lying there in agony.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink
  3. Ania wrote:

    Now and then also here a discussion on this appears in the media and, since it’s such a Catholic country with all its downs, it’s mostly about the sanctity of the human life etc.

    Personally I would like to be able to decide when it’s time to leave, especially if I were in serious health condition that would leave me depending on others.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink
  4. DON wrote:

    “Assisted suicide” as it’s termed is illegal in England, carrying a jail term of up to 14 years. So I was interested to see today that following public concern (and some recent perverse Court cases), a new set of guidelines has been issued setting out the principles on which anyone would or wouldn’t be prosecuted:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8536231.stm

    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  5. Shannon wrote:

    I think having a refined attitude about assisted suicide (and what a horrible term that is) is very much a mark of a mature and civil society, and I’m glad to see that we’re finally tackling the subject.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink
  6. I like Keith. I think if he had an hour a week instead of every day he’d be one of the most influential voices in media. It’s monologues like this that make me wish I knew the guy and could let him know he’s one of the good guys.

    I have a feeling that “assisted suicide” made legal could lead to some unanticipated outcomes*, but there should be some finely defined options.

    *It sounds crazy but I could see “if this happens, end my life”, if made legal, being pushed into contract agreements that people sign in agreement to enter highly beneficial agreements. Just saying it could be abused. I do think you should have the voice in whether you continue to live or not, but the wording has to be precise.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  7. Steph wrote:

    You know, if I was lying helpless and what not in bed, I would hope that one of my friends or family would inject me with a ton of drugs or put a pillow over my face. Sounds terrible I know. However when there’s no quality of life left, then to me there’s no point.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink
  8. Indigo wrote:

    My mother was ill for several years before passing away, and her biggest fear was to end up unable to speak or move as she lay suffering for however long it took for “nature to take its course”. The best we could do was to create a living will, and assign power of attorney to me, since she knew I loved her enough that it would override my selfish impulse to keep her alive at any cost. It wasn’t the best, but even that gave her some assurance in her last years. No one should have to spend any amount of time worrying because they have no valid opinion when it comes to the quality of their own life, whatever it may come to. I really hope someone changes that for everyone, SOON.

    Friday, February 26, 2010 at 2:06 am | Permalink
  9. Dafetwal wrote:

    Few informations in English about assisted suicides here in Switzerland => http://www.chninternational.com/switzerland_and_assisted_suicide.htm.
    As far as I can see, the system is not perfect (especially as there is some concerns about (numerous) foreigners coming to have their assisted suicides in switzerland as well as associations militating against this principle) but it works and allows every days people to decide what they want to do about their own life while offering them a decent way of realising this particular wish.
    I wish my country (France) would follow the Swiss laws on that point…

    Friday, February 26, 2010 at 8:27 am | Permalink
  10. Laura wrote:

    It was interesting that reading your blog coincided (as Don mentioned as well) with the news of England changing the legislation on assisted suicide.
    I find myself arguing within my own head as I type. I am completely supportive of a person’s right to choose to end their life instead of continuing in long term pain or declining into a state where they lose their quality of life (my support is not exclusive to these scenarios, but I’m sure you understand my meaning).
    My only worry is that when some (legal) doors are opened the wrong people step through. How do we prevent the loosening of the laws from being misused by carers to those who cannot protect themselves? I am not trying to play devils advocate. I genuinely wonder if anyone has a way that the laws can be put in place to protect people who need protecting, while allowing the rights and freedom of choice to those who are capable of choosing?

    Friday, February 26, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  11. Corvin wrote:

    My father had a brain tumor that cause serious pressure to be put onto his brain. He went from working normally to having surgery to relieve the pressure and investigate the cause in less then a week, it was extremely fast.

    After a couple of weeks he was no longer himself and was hospitalized. The doctors gave him 6 months at the most.

    By the time a month had passed he was no longer able to feed himself and had a feeding tube inserted, he wasn’t able to care for himself in any way and was in obvious pain.

    One morning he pulled the feeding tube out himself. At that point my mother along with the doctors made the decision not to reinsert the feeding tube. All of his family had been able to come and see him and he was ready to go, he knew he was not going to be able to do anything but lay in a hospital bed and barely able to communicate at all.

    If I was in that situation I don’t think that I’d want to be kept alive either.

    Friday, February 26, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  12. Ed Cushman wrote:

    My health problems are not nearly a serious as those described here, but enough to cause me to get my affairs in order and do some serious thinking.

    I have food allergies which leave me with severe migraines for 24 hours. Just when I think I have a handle on it all and know what I can or shouldn’t eat and when, it seems that I react to another previously “safe” food. When I’m not reacting and have no pain, life is good and I’m glad to be around. However after about 12 hours of severe pain for which there is no relief, I’m ready to cash in and be done with it all.

    I have no family or children, so all of my considerations affect only me – I have no one else to worry about. I realize that this is a one-sided point of view on this whole health care situation and I have a lot of empethy for those who have close loved ones. It’s one hell of a mess!

    So from my rather narrow point of view as a “loner,” I’m ready to go any time. I’ve had a good life and have made some small contributions and have no regrets about cashing in. I think we all reach a point sooner or later when we feel it’s not worth fighting any longer.

    Friday, February 26, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink
  13. corey wrote:

    Man I don’t know exactly how you feel..except for what I have read, but I hope you can get the help your seeking …ill truly miss reading what you have and would be really sad to hear something bad has happened.. please keep your head up…

    Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink
  14. Patrick B wrote:

    Once I had got my head around the fact that my cancer was terminal (it took about 24 hours) the rest has been easy. The only thing that I have found disconcerting is living beyond the doctors expectations (I have reacted very well to the chemo I am on). When you have prepared yourself for death and are quite happy with the idea, it almost feel like you have been cheated when you continue to live. I am still ready to go at any time – but for the sake of those I will be leaving behind I continue to go through the motions of living. “What would I like for Chrisbo” Nothing – like don’t waste your money, I have every thing I want. If I won a National Lottery I would see it as a sick joke. All I am doing now is waiting patiently for the inevitable. The side effects of the meds I am on preclude me from doing much more than that. I suspect I will still have to ‘pull the leaver’ on myself when the pain becomes too much to cope with – but until then, I still have many friends who I am in touch with, my cats, and I still go fishing occasionally.

    Monday, December 20, 2010 at 5:54 am | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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