Recently a member of my family died after several days of eating and drinking nothing and with a DNR (Do not resuscitate) order in place. This lady had dementia and had been unable to communicate for the last 4 years. This followed another 4 years of steadily failing capacity that was truly heart breaking to witness. Her last week was obviously a great trial for her family and friends and, if she was capable of rational thought and experience, cannot have been pleasant for her. I was not present at that death but was at that of another family member who died of cancer a few years ago. There was a similar DNR notice in operation and no food or drink was given by the hospital for several days. In that case the patient was in some pain and distress and eventually he was put on a morphine drip. After a few more days he died.
I fervently hope that my death does not happen in a similar way. I want to be terminated quickly, if there is no realistic hope of recovery, rather than fading away in a haze of uncertain discomfort or pain; possibly experiencing the frustration of not being able to communicate. I cannot believe that any sane person would prefer to linger on in a state of semi-consciousness for one’s final days. So why do we allow it?
I understand that assisted dying is open to abuse and needs to be carefully introduced and controlled but is this really a credible reason to keep families on tenterhooks and in a state of sustained grief, and the patient in discomfort or at least in a state of semi- or unconsciousness for days? Never mind the wasted medical resources, which I think could be utilised in much more useful activity.
Surely, we can be more humane and civilised in our treatment at the ends of our lives, a time we will all reach sometime?
In view of this recent experience I have joined the Dignity in Dying campaign http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/about-us/.