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Death, Dying, Unhappiness and Misery Have Been on My Mind
Several weeks ago I was contacted by Ramona*, a woman in her 50s who is leading what she considers to be a horrible, no-quality life. She is tied to machines for all but about 2 hours a day, she needs regular surgeries to stay alive, she can’t eat food (liquids only), there is no prospect for improvement, and she has no family… She has no hope, and she wants to die. She has tried discussing options with her doctors, but to no avail. She wants to stop her treatment, enter hospice care and receive palliative care instead. That should be her right! But because they CAN keep her alive (and, of course, can keep taking her money and her insurance – for years) her doctors will not discuss hospice with her, nor have they provided any other options. She has also tried contacting doctors in right-to-die states, but since she does not live in those states, they will not talk to her. So she reached out to me, asking me if I could help her figure out what to do. After all, is determining our own death, perhaps, the ultimate in patient empowerment? Whether it is or isn’t, there are so very many details and questions to be concerned with ranging from possible mental health issues, to the law, to one’s religious beliefs, to actually making it happen if that’s the ultimate choice. The only help I could provide to Ramona was to reach out to two of my listserves (one was the APHA Forum) and ask if anyone had any suggestions that I could send to her. A handful of people were able to provide some resources – all useful – which I then forwarded on to her. But it got me thinking about what choices any of us would have for making such a determination. And I don’t just mean I’ve thought about it on occasion. I mean – for weeks it has been constantly on my mind, coming out at the oddest of times. Death, dying, facing years of misery…. In my lifetime, I’ve observed and experienced…