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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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Death with Dignity

Uploaded: Dec 16, 2014
Death with dignity is also known as assisted suicide. I can hardly believe that I am having this conversation with my MIL, the mom of my heart (or mom-in-love, as one of my oldest friends wrote to me).

As the pain from cancer throughout her body increases, she is taking morphine to control it. It makes her dopey, and she doesn't feel like herself. She can not think clearly due to the morphine, and she can think just fine without it (albeit, in pain). So she's on the pain ? dopey continuum, and there is no longer any way off of it. And it will only get worse.
Shall she suffer to the bitter end?

At first she wanted to go through the process and die at home. Now she's not so sure, as the symptoms increase and the outcome is pre-determined. She says she's not herself anymore, and she doesn't like that.

In my role as advocate, I call Mom a couple of times a day to ask how her pain is and if she's taken morphine to control it (she's not tracking well anymore). I go to visit with her a couple of times a week to see for myself how she's doing, and to hang out with her as much as I can, and to give her partner a break from care-giving.

It's also my role to bring up options and discuss them with her, especially when she's not dopey, even if they are difficult topics. California is not a state that allows Death with Dignity. That adds another complication.

Then I go exercise, and cry, and keep taking care of and living life. It's challenging.

I know many of you are going through this, too, and my heart goes out to you.
I don't know the right answer to death with dignity. I just know the questions.


Comments

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by June, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 17, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Chandrama,

I went through all this about two year ago with my father. In California, which does not allow legal assisted suicide. The way it is accomplished in California is to overdose on the drugs at use for palliative care. I have a niece who is a nurse, and she tells me it happens all the time in our hospitals, especially if there is a DNR directive or family consent to "relieve all pain and discomfort". They do, and the patient dies, to the relief of all involved.

We should not be on a guilt trip about it. Death is part of the life story. I have so many good memories of my Dad, and I followed the advice of his doctors to administer at least as much drugs that would keep him out of pain. I did. He died in about a week. I feel no guilt, whatsoever about it. He is in a much better place.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by dwdadvocate, a resident of another community,
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:47 am

I am an active volunteer for Compassion and Choices, an organization that is working to make aid in dying (not assisted suicide) legal, and also provides counselors at no charge to individuals and families who need them. You can call them, and they will assign you a counselor in your area. You can also learn more about them at their website or follow them on twitter.

Aid in dying is helping those who are already terminally ill with 6 months or less to live the opportunity to choose the timing and method of their death rather than enduring the suffering that waiting for nature would bring. A great analogy was raised about those 9/11 victims who chose to jump out of buildings rather than waiting for fire and smoke to overtake them. Also, a large percentage of those who receive the prescription in those states where it is legal, do not use it, but derive comfort by knowing that they have it in their possession. Everyone should have the right to control their body, to the extent that control is available.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jon Botelho, a resident of Barron Park,
on Dec 22, 2014 at 7:34 am

I am so sorry for your MIL, and for your family, who suffers with you. My mother passed in July after over a decade of severe disability that left her home bound and even unable to talk. During that time I thought, 'why my wonderful, active mother, and why must we watch her suffer?'. I still don't know the answer except that maybe it was part of a greater plan, and her role in it was to teach us, and herself, some lesson in living. Many years ago I wondered if I would be asked/able to help her end her life, and was angry that it was not legal to do so. In hindsight, I see the incredible opportunities it offered for my siblings to become more caring and sensitive, and for my mother to show us an example of courage and living life to the fullest no matter what the circumstance. Maybe in the larger scheme of things that lesson was with the price.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by JavaJan, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Dec 22, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Death with Dignity means many other things beside Assisted Suicide. I bring this up so that when people see articles or editorials that mention Death With Dignity, they do not assume it means Assisted Suicide. It can also mean having a chaplain present; keeping out "difficult people;" playing music that the person loves or decorating the room in his / her taste; providing religious support, etc. Assisted Suicide is the far end of the spectrum of "death with dignity."


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 22, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Jon,
Thanks for sharing about your mother. There are certainly many mysteries that we can not understand. Sounds like your family learned a lot from this long experience. I am sure you are both grieving and relieved, still. Find ways to include memories of her at your family holidays; the more we create ongoing relationships with those we love who have died, the healthier it is for us. (This is distinct from being stuck.) All my best to you and your family.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 22, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi JavaJan,

Thanks for spelling out some of the other services that go along with Death With Dignity. I know my mom wants Mary Oliver poems read to her.


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