That lady on the left is my beautiful, strong, independent, tough and loving Grandma, Doris Morr (the handsome guy on the right is my Grandpa but that is a story for another day). Once upon a time she was quite a force to be reckoned with. She took joy in the small things: homegrown vegetables, a good game of cards with friends, family gatherings and cookies for breakfast! She was amazing and generous and taught me a lot about life and living well. It was a priviledge to know her and to be loved by her.
So it pains me to tell you my lovelies, that as we sit here chatting, my Grandmother is slowly dying in hospice. Let’s be honest, she has been slowly dying for several years now. And my question to you is, how is this the humane or right thing to do? And please, don’t give me some platitude about playing God. We crossed that bridge a long freaking time ago when we started performing surgery and taking antibiotics. I mean, we transplant organs, install defibrillators on airplanes, and a million other things. Hell, we even purify our water, pasteurize our milk, and use refrigeration in our efforts to cheat death. Sorry, we decided to cheat death a long time ago. Why the hell do we have such a hard time cheating life just a little bit?
More to the point, why am I allowed to end the suffering of my beloved pet but not my much, much, MUCH more beloved Grandmother? Why must she continue to suffer when no one I know would make their pet suffer even half as much for a few days? My Grandmother has been suffering for years. And even as I sit here waiting on the news that she has passed, I am praying that it will come sooner rather than later. Honestly, I will find her death a not so merciful relief. In the dictionary we define mercy as, “compassion shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to harm.” In her case, (and millions of others) rather than show compassion we have opted to continue doing her harm, day after day, month after month and year after year. Think about it, we think it is okay to stop giving her all medications besides those for pain. We think it is okay to stop giving her food and water. We will give her enough pain meds to keep her out of pain and in la-la land but not enough to end her pain for good. We will allow her to; nay, we will make sure she dies a slow (hopefully pain free) death, after having helped her to continue living for years in a miserable state. Why?
Why do we continue to deceive ourselves into thinking anyone wants to or needs to live this way? What kind of twisted logic must we use? Where is our humanity?
Listen, I do not and will not lay the blame for this on anyone; not the doctors, not the nurses, not hospice, not lawmakers, and certainly not the family. After all, no one besides the patient suffers like the family does in these situations. What I will do, however, is call on all of us to embrace mercy, compassion, and empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of my beloved Grandma, Doris Morr. Is that how you want to go out? Slowly starving to death after spending years in a nursing home unable to care for your own basic needs? I ask you again, is that how you want to go out? I sure as hell don’t. It is too late for my grandma, but for the love of she and all of our loved ones and even ourselves, can we please change the system? The one we have now sucks.