weekly blog--one for the ages
My mother-in-law passed away two weeks ago after a short stay in the same hospice where her husband died nine years earlier. The hospice overlooks Long Island Sound and it is probably one of the prettiest settings to spend your last days.
More to the point, hospices focus on the palliation of a chronically ill, terminally ill, or seriously ill patient’s pain and symptoms, and attending to their spiritual and emotional needs. But for anyone who has had a loved one in this situation, watching the patient slip from consciousness to unconsciousness and finally death can be a long drawn-out affair. So much so that it opens the Pandora Box on taking preemptive action before one’s health declines, especially if you have dementia.
More seniors are weighing the possibility of suicide, experts say, as the baby boomer generation, known for valuing autonomy and self-determination, reaches older age at a time when modern medicine can keep human bodies alive far longer than ever before. The idea that suicide can be a well-reasoned decision, not a result of emotional or psychological problems, remains highly controversial and runs counter to many societal norms, religious and moral convictions, and the efforts of suicide prevention workers who contend that every life is worth saving.
Maine recently became the ninth state to allow medical aid in dying, which permits some patients to get a doctor’s prescription for lethal drugs. That method is restricted, however, to people with a terminal condition who are mentally competent and expected to die within six months. Currently, patients who aren’t eligible for those laws have to go to an underground practice to get lethal medication or simply stop eating.
For me, the option of choosing a peaceful end in the future is as much an inalienable right as health insurance.