Monday, February 4, 2013

When it comes to the ‘right-to-die’ debate, I choose the right to live.

The following article was written by Gwyneth Edwards and published in the Montreal Gazette on February 2, 2013 under the title: When it comes to the 'right to die' debate, I choose the right to live.

Gwyneth Edwards, Montreal Gazette - February 2, 2013

The recent letters to the editor and Opinion articles on the subject of euthanasia have been met with silence by my husband, Marc. His mother died recently and, with the tragedy still fresh in our minds, discussions are limited. But we can no longer watch the Opinion pages fill up with support for the “right to die” without telling how his mother’s life came to an end.

Marc’s mother raised eight children on a farm in Mercier. Her husband worked the land by day and was a supervisor at a local factory by night. She ran the household and, after her husband’s death, helped her eldest son run the farm. So when Marc’s mother went into the hospital this past July with a clogged bronchiole tube, we thought nothing of it. Yes, she had emphysema, but her underlying strength and will to live were never in doubt. She would live forever, we all thought. Her only fear was death itself.

After a few weeks in the hospital, concern grew. There was some discussion of stomach problems. Surgery was scheduled for a routine procedure. The routine, however, soon became the complicated. Marc’s mom was unable to keep food down. An intestinal feeding tube was inserted, followed by a few more failed attempts at swallowing. Her physician suggested that the feeding tube would remain indefinitely and that she might never eat again, but she could live this way for years.

The family was stunned. The surgeon claimed that the operation had been a success, while the physician claimed a brain “malfunction.” Although family members were confused, they worked toward getting Mom better, so that one day the “malfunctioning” brain would once again function, swallowing would return and home she would go. But in the meantime the physician — the one whom Marc’s mother saw as being second only to God himself — explained that some people who are on a feeding tube choose to die. This same physician, we learned, believed in the right to die, and was a proponent of dying with dignity.

From that moment on, my mother-in-law sat in her hospital bed with little emotional support outside of the struggling efforts of her children, who spent most of their time trying to find a way to get her out. While a social worker sought out a long-term-care facility, the hospital staff cared for her by administering pain relief upon request. The children argued against the morphine, but Mom, the staff indicated, was lucid enough to decide on her own.

So over the course of a few months, Marc’s mom was given morphine throughout the day, whenever she asked. Slowly but surely she fell into an abysmal depression and lost her will to live. She missed her home, her children, and the life that she had known for 79 years.

In late December she pulled her feeding tube out twice within three days (yet did not remember doing so). Eventually, when it was to be inserted once again, she refused and said that she wanted to die. The children fought back: the tube was working and the emphysema was under control; she just had to wait for a bed. But no agreement was reached. Just before Christmas, the family left the hospital, thinking all would be resolved once the holidays had passed.

On Christmas Day, we found Marc’s mother almost lifeless in her hospital bed. The intravenous had been removed and she could barely speak. Marc fed her chocolate, which she eagerly accepted and successfully swallowed, and we waited to meet with the physician. But the following day Marc and his siblings learned that Mom had started to die from the moment she removed the feeding tube a week earlier.

Three days after Christmas, and 10 from the day she first pulled out the feeding tube, Marc’s mom died. One son never made it to the hospital in time, while many of the other children, holding out false hope, never took the time to say goodbye.

As she died, Marc’s mom did not receive any pain medication; she was unable to request it. Near the end of her life, she was free of drugs, food and water. Marc is convinced that she died in peace. But he is also convinced that she didn’t have to die at all.

Marc and I are most definitely on the “right to live” side of the equation, where we firmly believe the entire medical profession should sit.

Gwyneth Edwards is a PhD candidate at the John Molson School of Business. She lives in Kirkland with her husband and two children.


Ironsides said...

The day after sending in a Letter to the Editor about last Saturday's euthanasia debate, I read this woman's article. Several other good articles and Letters were published, also.--But this article needs to be remembered for a reference, to how easy the sleeper-cells are killing patients off in Quebec, and across Canada.

Although people should not become paranoid, they should pay attention to early symptoms of serial-killers, who pose as doctors.

It is commendable that on January 21st, Canada-News-wire published the petition signed by the over 300 doctors, palliative-care specialists, nurses and therapists whose presentations were omitted from Quebec-commission's Final-Report.

They warned that if Quebec continues to legislate euthanasia through the courts, they had better find enough Judges and MP's to carry out their executions for them.--Because they will not!

X-lib said...

This is true. I just experienced this with my own poor dad here in at a local hospital in Phila. The only differences were that he never said he wanted to die or gave any indications that he wanted to die. In fact after earlier trying to consistently remove his oxygen mask he cleverly figured out a way to relieve the pressure without totally taking the mask off.He also wasn't in as bad as shape as the mother in the story.He had 8 children also, but only 2 out of 8 the fought to keep him alive. The doctors wanted him dead from the day he entered but he fought for six weeks until 6 out of 8 family members (majority ruled) voted not to put him back on ventilator that he had already fought to wean himself off 3 different times and so he died around 6 am on the morning of MAY.30, 2012. After that, I believe the death panel mentality has been in the medical field for a while now. Parents started aborting their children and now we see children aborting their parents.

Anonymous said...

We had almost exact same situation with my dad. From day one the doctors were against even putting him on a ventilator. We had 8 in our family too, but fir the most part only 2 of us were fighting tooth and nail from the beginning to keep him alive. The death panel of doctors and nurses and our own family were constantly putting the "your being selfish,your making him needlessly suffer" guilt trip on me and my sister for the six weeks he battled to live, coming off the ventilator 3 different times. Too bad my dad, who probably thought he was showing us how much he willed to live by battling off the ventilator for a third time, didn't realize the majority decided 3 times on the ventilator was the maximum they would allow him. So he died around 6 am in the morning on May 30, 2012, God have mercy on his soul, and I'll never see the medical profession in the same light again, although I also realize it shouldn't be unexpected when that same profession teaches that its ok to kill in the earlier stages of life also. Another thought struck me: When parents are killing their children why should we surprised when children kill their parents.