OK, nothing like jumping in with both feet!
First of all I would like to point out that assistance in dying is preferred over the word suicide, the latter of which is unfairly fraught with stigma. There is a similarity aside from the obvious; neither is entered into lightly. And a significant difference: medical assistance in dying might actually be taking the easy way out. Huh.
MAID has certainly become a hot-button topic in Canada and throughout the world of late and understandably so. It also seems to me that very few of us are on the fence, but feel free correct me if I'm wrong. Advocates don't think we're going far enough, that the exclusions laid down by the Canadian Senate are unfair and almost arbitrary. We've all heard it said that we treat our pets more humanely.
Opponents of the practice think that any measure that serves to hasten a person's death is one too many. The religious arguments abound, so I really don't think I need to spell them out here. I will ask a question, however. Canadians' life expectancy rose almost 44% between the years 1921 and 2011, from 57 to 82. One could say that God made us smart enough to succeed in our pursuit of medicine. Good for us! My question is simply this: Is it not possible that He also gave us enough smarts to find a way to let our loved ones die? And the compassion to choose to do so?
I wasn't sure if I was going to proclaim which side of the fence I'm on, but I guess that ship has long sailed. I am not advocating physician-assisted dying -- that is as personal a decision as they come -- but I am not afraid of it either. And all I really do know is that if a person has decided that he or she can no longer bear a debilitating disease or ailment and has decided that death is the only thing that will offer relief, a means to that end can be found. I just prefer to leave it to a professional to ensure that it goes smoothly, that the individual dies peacefully without fear that the attempt will fail.
As with any controversial personal decision, if you don't believe in it -- abortion, same-sex marriage, medical assistance in dying -- then don't do it.
I, for one, am available to support the people who do just as I would any other client. They are no less deserving of my services. In fact, they may just need me more.
That's a little stark, isn't it? Where's the soft language we're supposed to couch that information in? Euphemisms and whatnot? The new western world is far too scared of death to actually call it by name!
But here's what's wrong with that: If we can't say it, we give it all the power, leaving us without. Now, I don't know about you, but when my time comes, when I am facing death, I'll want to hold onto as much control as I can. And I won't want to feel isolated in my dying because the people around me haven't developed the language to talk to me about it.
Now, some of you might think me a hypocrite for calling myself an end-of-life rather than death coach, but please allow me to explain. End-of-life is a time of preparation. It can involve funeral decisions, living wills, last will and testaments, advanced directives, among other things. All of these can -- and should -- be taken care of well before any dramatic health changes, but, sadly, that is not always the case. Rather than burdening the family with them when it's too late, an end-of-life coach will step in. The family's presence is needed at the bedside.
Another component of end-of-life is the dying process itself. At that point the coach will help bring peace to the individual and family by facilitating communication and engaging in ceremony or ritual tailored to the family's own background. I can also offer support in the form of gentle massage, a soothing touch for the dying person, strokes which I can also teach the family. I will also be on hand to give caregivers a well-deserved break.
Right, so that's end-of-life. Death, on the other hand, is -- to my mind -- the transition of an individual's spirit out of their body. Part of the end-of-life process to be sure, but not all of it. And not necessarily the last either. With a natural death there is no law requiring the body to be whisked immediately away. Some families will choose to sit vigil until everyone has found their peace. You may choose a home funeral. Your end-of-life coach will be right there.
Don't waste those last precious moments with your loved one.