A test of conviction

I will try not to cheat on NaBloPoMo by citing articles every day. But while I’m thinking about the New York Times, I’m reminded of a story that I think is relevant to caregivers of all kinds. This story, titled “A Life-or-Death Situation,” ran in the Times magazine in July. I was drawn to it right away because of the cutline on the lead photo: “As a bioethicist, Peggy Battin fought for the right of people to end their own lives. After her husband’s cycling accident, her field of study turned unbearably personal.”

I have complicated emotions about Mom’s slow decline. I just remain thankful that her existence is punctuated by hearty laughter and the consistent joy of consuming a good meal. But what I’m experiencing, I imagine, is minimally painful compared to what spouses of Alzheimer’s patients endure. What do they wish for? The comforting presence of their constant companion, or a merciful end to the suffering?

In this story, a man is critically injured in a bicycle accident. His wife, an academic who has long been a very public proponent of the right to die, finds herself wanting her husband to live – and wanting him to want to live. It’s a moving story. The follow-up was published a month later.

The cover story is a long read, but worth it if the subject is of interest to you.

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4 comments so far

  1. Gemma McLuckie on

    My mom died in a moment. My dad is going slowly. The shock of Mom’s heart attack was terrible, but it now seems so much better (that’s not the right word) than what Daddy is facing. As I write that, I think, does that make me a terrible person?

  2. momsbrain on

    Gemma, absolutely not! What I tend to say about sudden death is that it’s good for the person who dies – no fear, minimal/no pain, no time to worry or be sad – but terrible for those who loved her/him. In my opinion, lingering in a state of reduced and steadily declining quality of life is not good for anybody. I don’t want it for Mom, for your dad, and certainly not for me, either. Wishing that someone’s life would not be prolonged if it’s marked with pain, fear, anxiety, dementia, whatever negative state it might be isn’t the same as wishing someone would die – at least that’s how I see it. We don’t want the people we love to suffer.

  3. Kristy on

    It’s what we all hope for isn’t it, a quick death. It’s what I want, that’s for sure. I’ve always wished for a heart attack in my sleep, so it’s all over within a matter of minutes. Ironic, how we spend billions on heart drugs, advertising for heart health etc. But essentially, what we all really want, is a heart attack. Until we have it that is, or so it seems?*!

  4. momsbrain on

    Kristy, you are so right. In our sleep – wouldn’t that be great. That’s how my grandmother died, lying on the couch with an afghan pulled over her. A stunner for our family, but peaceful for her. I just take comfort in my mom’s good mood. That makes a big difference to me in how I feel about her endurance. If she were miserable, I really don’t know what I’d do. My inclination would be to sedate her indefinitely. So glad I don’t have to consider such a thing.


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