Personal Stories

Jean’s Story

Thoughts about deaths I have known

I am old myself and have had experiences among friends and family of good and bad end-of-life experiences and I have my own to consider.

The best experience I knew of was when a doctor helped a friend to die at home when she could no longer manage at home even with some help. Who would not be grateful for this mercy?

The worst experience I know of was of a friend kept alive for years with a feeding tube when she could not speak or eat. I could think of nothing worse than living on with such loneliness and boredom year after year. In the end she was allowed to die of an untreated infection.

Members of my own family have in the end used dehydration, that is refusing to drink and eat. It may be the only option for me if we pass legislation in Victoria which places too many limits on help.. It takes a few days but is legal and not regarded as suicide. My mother seemed to cope without too much distress sitting in a chair with food and drink on a tray in front of her but wanting it to be over.

What I call 4 day morphine deaths may be peaceful but require the claim that it is for pain and we don’t know who will be willing to help, if anyone. In one instance I know of it gave opportunity for family to visit before loss of consciousness. In another I thought it was hard on a person who had to share a room with the unconscious patient dying of pneumonia for 4 days.

A lost opportunity was when we had what would have been a good memory of death bed farewells but in the night a well-meaning doctor set up emergency treatment and saved a life for two years of misery as metastatic cancer did more and more damage. This is a distressing memory for what might have been a good one.

I am grateful not to have had an experience of anyone dying in extreme pain but I think any of us would choose an assisted death that was quick and pain free.

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