Saturday, 2 January 2016

Death's Waiting Room

On the Tuesday after Christmas my estranged mother's lawyer E.mailed that she had suffered a massive stroke and had not regained consciousness. They were not moving her from the care home due to her fragile state and he did not think she would survive the attack. 

On the Wednesday my sister visited our mother under the authority of my mother's solicitor and sent me the following:

".. as these places go very good, attentive staff, mum's main carer knew mum. Now on palliative care, first organised by emergency service agreed by her GP. Nurse felt a second opinion was necessary due to the situation. I recognised Mum as she looks a cross between old Aunt Jess and Gran Rob, Methven did not. The room she is in is pleasant homely not clinical with all the equipment required and more going in as we left. Ian had obviously said that mum cut us not the other way round and he saw himself as the contact with us turning up and giving support . They were adamant that they could cope no need to move her and distress her away from friendly surrounds. Methven's professional view was if they tried to move her there was a danger of fractures. The nurse in charge has the morphine pack if necessary, she has had no reason to use it so far. 

Due to the weather and distance from Dunfermline we were asked very sensibly in my view which Funeral Parlour was to be contacted. Gave basic information and said that Solicitor had all the directions. Mum showed no sign of recognition or ability to speak there was an agitated flutter of her left hand. Mum still had her long hair well cared for, she has obviously lost a lot of weight I could see why her teeth gave concern, she was obviously clean and well cared for, they had not been told of our possible visit so we felt that this was the normal level of care. She has been telling very long tales. She also talked about us when we were very young happily. She is in the best possible hands in the circumstances."

On the Thursday the solicitor visited and sent this:

"Things do not look good and I am sorry she appeared so frail and vulnerable. I hope she is in no pain but confess to being shocked as to what I saw .... I can only say how sad I am at this time .."

The chances of my mother regaining consciousness is small, her aggressive form of Alzheimer's had already reduced her brain mass by 40%. My sister is clear that the level of physical disability my mother now has as a result of this stroke is severe with only reduced motor function on her left side and the medical people are stating all they can do is palliative care. It is at this point I am asking myself;  if I treated my dog or cat in this manner after such a major degradation of their quality of life, I would be accused of cruelty and just keeping the pet alive for my own selfish reasons. Here in lies the total hypocrisy of Western moral thinking that human's are somehow special and all sense of logic must be suspended when a human is involved. The pious hypocrites talk of their "God's will " and the "sanctity of human life" in defence of this inhumane treatment of the terminally ill. So my mother will be left to fester on, in her unconscious state, until her major organs fail some time over the next week or so as her body own toxins build up in her already compromised body and kill her. This according to current Judaeo-Christian western moral models is apparently the kind and proper thing to do. 

I disagree. I love my mother. I wish to reduce her suffering.

I have seen death from major organ failure, first hand, in conscious patients and the pain they suffered from was intense as we fed them morphine and anti-emetics via drips to get them 'comfortable' until they eventually lost consciousness, then it became harder to decide if they were still in pain or not. From watching the cardiac traces, given the raised heart rates and arrhythmias, it was difficult decide whether this was caused by the toxins or pain and the interpretation was always up for grabs, depending which side of the fence you plump, you either maintain base morphine levels or raise them until the heart rate stabilises. The end result was the same in either case, death, give or take a few days. This is now the slide to death my mother is on as I sit in Death's Waiting Room feeling powerless, hoping the palliative care nursing is on the side of increased morphine and at least easing her passage.

I also think this is an exceptionally cruel way to treat an 83 year old woman and is why I agree with the call for a sensible bill in Scotland, allowing euthanasia in very specific medical circumstances, devoid of all the mumbo-jumbo, pseudo-religious, moral nonsense which muddies the waters and ask these simple questions:

"Why do we treat our pets with more care and compassion than our fellow human beings?"

"What makes us so arrogant to think we are anymore important?"

"What is so great about making the terminally ill suffer beyond their ability to cope or understand?"

"Which of the current 3,000 odd Gods invented by man, who are in play at this time around the world, tells us this is the morally correct 'way'? Are they all in agreement?"

As an atheist, I only see cruelty and suffering meted out under the myth of 'Christian' compassion and ask who in their right mind would want to die from slowly poisoning themselves, if they had the choice or the option to end their life in a quicker manner?

Given few would wish to die from slow poisoning, if they had the choice, why should we inflict the same slow, self poisoning on an unconscious, disabled, old woman in the name of 'Christian compassion' or 'moral rectitude'?

My mother died this afternoon, Sunday 3rd, without regaining consciousness - thank you to those who have expressed empathy with the case I am arguing.


  1. Peter, I'm saddened by your mothers final hours, and I offer my condolences.

    I agree totally, with your point of view. If I treated my pets in this manner, I rightfully would be prosecuted.
    Hopefully the ,Scottish, government will improve the situation, as we all will face death, we all wish to face it with dignity, without pain and unnecessary suffering.

  2. I second what Jim said. I believe we should have the right to decide to end our lives. I realise that there are complications quite apart from religious considerations, but it should not be beyond the wit of man to sort them out.

    Of course those who believe that it is god's will should at every point be allowed to make that choice.

    Please accept my sympathies for the pain this is putting your though.

  3. I too would like to offer my condolences to you, we watch my Husband's Mother waste away mentally, fortunately or possibly unfortunately she did not have a stroke like your Mother, but she tried several times to kill herself, before she was taken into the home in which she died. She became violent with both Staff and residents alike, we know she spent much of the last years heavily sedated for the safety of others. We know had she been more aware, she too had Alzhiemers, she would have much preferred to end it all.
    Seems the State seems to think it owns us body and soul. They can decide to end your life. but on no account should you. Also as an Atheist I too dislike the idea that I am at the mercy of those who talk to their imaginary friends. They should be allowed to remain in suffering if they choose, just let the rest of us decide our fate. As someone getting older and reaching towards the end I want to make my own decision.
    I will say Mum in Law had a quiet end. she got up, had breakfast returned to be for a snooze and slept away, it was the best we could hope for.
    All sympathy for you and your family, it is a hard one. My own Mum died as result of an accident whilst on holiday in Tenerife. I had the problem of going over and watching her die without help and assistance of my family. She too needed an easier way out.

  4. I too agree, why on earth should we tolerate suffering that is so unecessary?
    There was a bill in the uk parliament regards planned euthanasia, which failed recently, not surprisingly.

    I hope that the Scottish parliament can look at this very closely, we cannot allow people to suffer unnecessarily, it's just not acceptable.

    Condolences to you and your family, a sad time indeed.