Assisted suicide, revisited


I once blogged about assisted suicide.

It wasn’t a post about the ethics of it.
I didn’t argue the legalities of it.
I didn’t blog the pros or cons of it.
I didn’t write about it to either condemn, nor justify it.

It was simply about a young, dying patient and an hour that I spent with him.

I’m a hospice nurse and the number one question, above all others, that I hear is not about pain management. It’s not about what happens when you die. It’s not about the ‘white light’ theory – – nor is it about funeral planning. The number one question, and subsequent discussions, that I have with several of my patients is “Will you help me die?” And my answer is always that I am there to help them die peacefully, and as comfortably as possible – – and to help them make the connections necessary to help put thoughtful closure to their life . . . whether that is financial, emotional, spiritual or physical.

However, I am not there to hasten the process.

I will not “speed it up” – – but at the same time, I will not “slow it down”.

Nature is what it is — and it will eventually take it’s course. . . . over which, I really have no control. I can do what I can to control the symptoms of dying and to help the patient tie up loose ends, whatever they perceive them to be.

Why is it when people hear the word “Hospice” – – some, not all – – but some view us as Dr. Kevorkian’s missionaries?

Some days – I just want to say something like, “Sorry, but I left my hood and sickle at home today.”

Cold, I know.

Call it job stress.

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4 thoughts on “Assisted suicide, revisited”

  1. You said, “Why is it when people hear the word “Hospice” – – some, not all – – but some view us as Dr. Kevorkian’s missionaries?” The answer is because they are ignorant and fearful. Now that porno is mainstream, the big taboo is death. Anyone (like yourself) who works with the dying is suspect and villanized.

    Not to me.

  2. Liz, thank you.

    I’ll be looking forward to reading (on your blog) the story of your father. I am happy to hear he had hospice services and that it was a good experience.

  3. i have no idea what hospice is like here in oregon as far as helping people to die.. but we are the only state with a death with dignity law… its something i agree with.. death with dignity.. allowing someone who is dying the choice to take their own lives when they choose. no, i don’t equate hospice with kevorkian’s minions.. but i absolutely see nothing wrong with someone who is dying being able to die as they choose, not as the government dictates they choose. i see nothing wrong with ‘assisted suicide’ as it is often referred too.

  4. I really don’t have a problem with a terminal patient making that decision, either – as long as they are of sound mind and body when they make that decision.

    When it gets hairy is when people interpret what is ‘terminal’ and what isn’t.

    What also gets hairy is when people aren’t informed of what terminal means. An HIV infected patient has a terminal illness, however a potential life span of years and years before they start truly declining.

    What also gets troublesome is family members with a potential gain (i.e. will, life insurance claim) start to urge a ‘terminal’ patient to take their own lives….or ‘assist’ a patient in taking their own life.

    It’s no nearly so cut and dry as simply saying it’s a terminal patient’s right to die if they so choose – – there are too many factors up for interpretation that makes me question it far too much to agree with making it legal.

    Kevorkian was helping a patient with chronic depression to kill him/herself. Chronic depression is not a terminal illness – so where does one draw the line?

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