I recently had cause to visit the gym at the hospital where my wife needed physio, I accompanied my wife but could naturally take no part in her treatment. However, I was able to observe the other patients being treated in the gym. This situation was both inspiring and depressing.
Many of the patients being treated were old as would be expected but a surprising number were young men suffering paraplegia, there were no women suffering this way there in the gym at this time. I could only guess that the majority of these young men were so handicapped from having been involved in awful accidents.
The inspiring part of this visit was to observe the gentle and kindly way in which the staff dealt with these men. I thought that it must have been very hard to go to work each day to be faced with such sad cases knowing that despite all your efforts there is little that you can do for these young men other than keep them sane and comfortable.
In particular there was one young man that seemed to be paralysed completely and could only move his mouth, he also had a life support system fixed to the wheel chair and pipes going into his every part. Sad indeed but he was accompanied by a young woman that appeared to be his wife. This got me thinking about what is caring?
It is all very well to be kind to these people but I wonder if they have ever been asked the question as to what they want for a future. I can imagine this young man looking at his wife and thinking how terrible it must be for her, and what the future holds for her. He must feel that his incapacity had not only ruined his life but has ruined the life of someone that is most beloved to him.
I wonder if the medical profession has put it to him that if he finds that it is all too hard and that he doesn’t feel that he can cause so much suffering in the future, then he has only to say the word and the profession will facilitate his gentle and dignified demise.
I am aware that if you asked a loved one the question about whether this young man should be allowed to terminate his life, they couldn’t make the decision, it would be too hard and it would maybe make them feel guilty. However, I think that the difficulty in making a decision that would avoid this young man’s mental and physical suffering is the result of our having been raised to think that death is a punishment rather than a necessary part of life.
I am not heartless and I can well understand the terrible trauma that such situations place ordinary people in, situations that they can’t be trained to face up to in the normal every day run of the mill life, but I feel that the person that is most effected by the situation is the person that has the least say in what his/her future should be. I can’t accept all the crap about the sanctity and ” right to ” life, life is for living and once one is not able to participate in living, then the choice should be there to finish life painlessly.
This is a matter that I am increasingly mindful of since my wife and I are now of an age when the onset of dementia and other age related incapacitating complaints become ever more a possiblility. I read all this rubbish about the old becoming and increasingly high cost to the community because of the espense of operating nursing homes and the like to house all these zombie like creatures. This problem is a self imposed problem not a real problem. I together with most of my friends of similar age, don’t want to be kept alive sitting drooling, eating gunk, knowing no one, being bathed, put to sleep probably with sleeping pills etc. When I don’t know that I am me and can’t remember, recall or act out, my life in a meaningful way, then I am dead, the fact that others still have the ability to keep my body functioning is not keeping me alive. I am the sum of all my feelings and experiences and once those functions of the brain have gone then I no longer exist
Surely, caring is providing what is best for the patient and if the patient is suffering because of unwanted treatment, then the caring becomes a way of satisfying the needs of the carer more than a true caring for the patient!?
I know that things like dementia block out all memories and feelings but whilst I am still able to think, I have already decided that I don’t want to be a cause of pain and unnecessary euffering to my loved ones, far better that they can only remember me as me and not come and look at drooling zombie!