About death with dignity

August 24, 2013 at 12:41 pm Leave a comment

If you have read the last few months of this blog, you are aware that I thought about “death with dignity” for the end of Margie’s life on earth. You also read of actions that Margie took that indicated her complete agreement with this decision — a decision she made and told me decades ago.

When Margie first went to Arden courts, she repeatedly said to me “I want to die” or “I want to commit suicide.” My reaction at that time was to distract her, to try to get her thinking different thoughts. I wanted her to have as positive an experience as possible in activities, given her increasingly limited capabilities due to her vascular dementia.

Consider the issues of death with dignity. The Oregon law for death with dignity, which was the first, requires three things: the person requesting death with dignity must be free of clinical depression, the person must clearly state to two physicians the desire to die, and be able to participate, such as by taking a capsule knowing what the person is doing or by refusing food. Those three elements are usually considered critical for any discussion of death with dignity by physicians, theologians, or philosophers. Excellent books for thinking about these issues are Rethinking Life and Death by Peter Singer, a philosopher, or Bishop John Shelby Spong’s Epilogue in his Eternal Life.

I struggled with this decision alone, while most major decisions in our marriage were made by both Margie and me together. As Margie’s condition deteriorated, she was less and less conscious or aware; or perhaps more accurately the breadth of her awareness narrowed. If you have read the latter part of this blog you have seen evidence of that narrowing of her awareness, until it consisted of an arched eyebrow or a smile of recognition. I would have preferred death with dignity earlier when she could clearly state her desire to die and participate in the actions, but I so enjoyed the diminishing signs of recognition and love. I yearned for any hint from my beloved. Did I delay too long?

This is life’s most difficult decision and it is a decision that more of us are going to face, because of terminal illnesses of the brain and of their very high cost emotionally and fiscally.

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Entry filed under: Alzheimer's disease, communicating, dementia, Family, hospice care, slow-fade, soulmate.

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