Compassion and Choices

I wrote a blog post a while back about how I believe the government needed to back off of their involvement in personal choices having to do with bodily autonomy. If you want to read more, you can access it here. I completely understand that regulations are sometimes needed and that a functioning society often requires said regulations.

However.

Sometimes bodily autonomy for individuals trumps the needs of the whole; in actuality, I wonder if that’s a truth that is an always, not a sometimes.

Being terminal has given me a very different perspective about end of life issues. I’ve been reading a lot on hospice and end of life options and whenever I see how my friends are dying, I take note of the good and the bad. It feels a little macabre at times, but I am intensely curious about options and evaluating the pros and cons of each. What can I say, research is a reflex/habit now.

When I attended the LBBC conference in April of this year and we were asked to think about projects we could complete, one of my fellow attendees chose Medical Aid In Dying (MAiD). I was interested to participate and started reading up on the options. I told her I would help since I have some familiarity with the process of a bill becoming law from my legal experiences.

And then she died.

I don’t know if her death was what she envisioned in totality because we’d only touched on our own thoughts as at applied to us personally in a general sort of way. What I do know is that she had limited choices, even if she could have made them as she declined, just as so many of us who are terminal experience at the end.

What if we treated human beings the same as we treat animals?

I’ve had two cats who had cancer. One had liver cancer. One had pancreatic cancer. Once each of them were in so much pain that they stopped eating and drinking, we went to the vet to have them injected them with a cocktail of medication that allowed them to drift off to sleep, never to awake. It was peaceful. Both of my precious fur-babies died in my arms as I stroked their fur and told them how wonderful they were. One, Samantha, was 19 and the other, Jasper, was 14. They had lived long lives and we loved them in the best way we could.

We loved them enough to make the choice that was right for them.

Why is it that we treat animals better than humans?

I don’t have a good answer and I’ve not read anything that answers the question completely to my satisfaction. It makes no logical sense to me that we let people suffer. Why would anyone want their family member to suffer? I think most people would definitively say they wouldn’t. I’ve read a lot of scary and heartbreaking stories about not enough pain medication and patients starving themselves because of the unrelenting pain. The pain and extra grief that experience inflicts on the entire family is unconscionable, in my opinion.

How is that a good idea?

To me, it’s not.

I’m also familiar with nursing homes. I had several family members of my own who we visited regularly in various nursing homes. I’ve also helped my husband for the last approximately twelve (12) years to care for his father, who has been in a nursing home since 2005 after suffering three (3) separate strokes.

That’s not an existence that I would wish on anyone.

So, where does that leave us?

Part of me wanted to simply leave that discussion until I’m imminently facing the end; however, I know that that is not a good idea. These decisions need to be made while I’m still well enough to think them through and make the best decision for me and my family. It may be that my family will want to have input; however, it is also super important to me that none of the people who love me will have to bear the burden of making choices for me at the end that may/will result in my death. Part of my legacy to my family is to communicate as clearly as possible what I want so that they merely need to carry it out. That will be hard enough on them.

So that has brought me to Compassion and Choices. I’m just getting to know the company and their efforts across the country. I’m in Florida, so that’s my main focus, but observing and learning what they’ve been able to do in other states has been incredibly helpful.

On December 17th, I will attend a seminar to get educated and ready for including end of life issues in my advocacy more directly. I’ll definitely be blogging and discussing what’s next on this topic. In the mean time, their website is:

https://www.compassionandchoices.org

The stories of patients and their families are heartrending. Each story ends in death, but death on their own terms. The reasons vary, the circumstances vary, the details vary … the one thing that remains the same is that each person faced an end to their lives on their own terms and the people around them supported that.

That’s what I want.

27 thoughts on “Compassion and Choices

  1. As my mom’s caretaker during her last year of life I informed her 5 months before she passed away that she didn’t have to continue the suffering she was experiencing. California had just passed the End of Life option. She went smiling, sipping Campari surrounded by all her loved one’s. It was a seamless, pain free, seemingly peaceful experience for her. It is the only humane option and I am so grateful that choice was available; as it needs to be universally. Again thank you Abby for your writing. You are love and light.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve heard so many just like this and I am hopeful that if more people share their stories, maybe healthy people will listen. I also understand that generally millennials are positive about end of life choices, which also gives me hope. Thank you for always being so kind. Love and light to you.

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  2. I completely agree. I think something people miss is that just because MAiD exists, doesn’t mean you have to use it. For me, at this time at least, I don’t have any interest in MAiD. But plenty of people do want to use MAiD. It should exist so that anyone interested can use it. It existing and being legal and available is not forcing me to choose it if I have to make a decision one way or the other in the future.

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  3. Excellent post! Though I’m not terminal at this time…who knows when the other shoe will drop? I’m definitely going to check out this website and can’t wait for your post once you attend the conference. Love you, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s people who don’t need it who need to support it and I so appreciate your support! I’m sure there’s an action team near you once you might want to get more direct info and you can find that via the website. Love to you!!

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    1. Oh wow. I’m so sorry for your loss. It had to have been so hard to watch the disease progress. 😥. I’ve never met anyone who has a serious illness or a family member with a serious illness who doesn’t support choices at the end of life. It’s the healthy people and the people who haven’t watched anyone die who don’t get it, in my opinion. Thank you for reading and commenting!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very thought-provoking (and, to be frank, somewhat intimidating — but that makes it all the more important). And I couldn’t agree more about nursing homes. That’s not the way I would want to live.

    Liked by 1 person

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