- I don't like this word, nor do I like the distinction between"passive"
and "active" euthanasia, nor yet the expression "palliative
care". But the reality exists: how are we to manage the end of our
lives and die with dignity ? This issue was already being debated, but
it has been given a new impetus by the formal interrogation of a nurse
who had helped about thirty of her patients to die.
- I went to visit an old lady in hospital, who said to me : "I'm
not afraid of death; I long for it. But what I don't accept is the suffering.
I had no idea one could suffer so much".
- How is it that nowadays, in a large hospital, it is so difficult to
ease the pain the patients are suffering? Is it that the mighty doctors,
who have been trained to cure, cannot bring themselves to prepare people
for death. We go on treating the malady to the utmost, without taking the
end of life into account.
- On another occasion, I went to see a young man who was very seriously
ill. "All the nursing staff are very kind and competent", he
told me, "but they are always in a hurry and we only ever talk about
the treatment. I should like to talk to them about other things, but I
sense that it is not possible. The other day, I felt so alone, and I was
longing for the nurse just to put her hand on my forehead".
- The loneliness of the sick! Non-existent dialogue! And yet it is the
sick who are facing the basic questions of life and death.
- In hospitals, death has become very 'medicalized'. Often it escapes
even the patients themselves. Surely the right to die with dignity means
making time and space for each individual at the end of their lives? Means,
too, taking on the burden of their pain by keeping them company day by
day in order to ease their sense of isolation and help them to confront
the major event of death and so enable them to live it with dignity ?
- To administer drugs that will cause death does not seem to me to be
the way to respect the dignity of those who are ill. To do everything we
can to alleviate their suffering and keep them company right to the end,
that, surely, is to die with dignity ?