Our whole family has felt it criminal that my father, who is 83 and has a multiple-system brain atrophy, which has been a seven-year process following a quadruple heart bypass and a mild stroke, is still alive thanks to medicine.

An excerpt from an article in the Saturday Star by Kashiefa Ajam – July 19, 2014

In 2011, Diana Kumst wrote Professor Sean Davison the following letter:

My personal experience has been with my severely ill father who has had a seven year journey of suffering. It is very easy to give opinions unless one has been affected by such a situation. The arguments against euthanasia are that God’s will should be done, and we should not interfere with the process of life and death. All I can say is that that would certainly be true if it wasn’t for the interference of modern medicine that is keeping sufferers alive. And to what end?

Our whole family has felt it criminal that my father, who is 83 and has a multiple-system brain atrophy, which has been a seven-year process following a quadruple heart bypass and a mild stroke, is still alive thanks to medicine.

He has been bedridden for three years, almost died three times, and is in and out of hospital. He cannot eat solids and cannot drink water because he aspirates and develops pneumonia and ends up in hospital. He can barely move his hands and can’t move any other part of his body. He sleeps all the time and seldom says anything at all, except when they try and open his clawed hands to clean them, and then he swears in pain. My father has shrivelled to a fraction of his size, hardly recognises us, and has bedsores that are becoming untreatable rotting flesh. When you look at him now, he is sadly like the living dead. Why can’t we just let him be? Why does medicine insist he should be kept alive? We have no say. We have all asked the questions about whether there is another way, and the thought of euthanasia has crossed all our minds. The whole family has suffered during his long drawn-out illness – and not only emotionally.

My mother, after having lived a relatively wealthy life, and after my dad had made what they thought would be adequate provision for their old age, is afraid she is going to end up in poverty, and wonders how she at 76 will provide for the remainder of her years after medical and frail costs have robbed them of their retirement fund.”

Three years later, Diana recalled her email to Davison. Her father died a month after she wrote it.

These were her sentiments this week: “I had written that letter on February 21, 2011. The family was very distraught at seeing my father’s suffering, and we stood by helplessly watching his degeneration. A month later, and just a few weeks after my desperate email, he quietly passed away on the March 3.

A week before his death, the doctor had been suggesting that they operate and take skin grafts from his buttocks to fill in where the bedsores had eaten away at his flesh. The thought of this poor, shrivelled body that had already suffered so much having to withstand an operation was appalling to all of us. It wasn’t easy to get hold of the doctor, but my mom was there with a friend late in the afternoon one day, and the doctor came around. She confronted him, saying that an operation was out of the question and that they should stop the medications. She asked the doctor whether he had really looked at my dad lately. At that stage he looked like the living dead. The doctor conceded and stopped the medications, and one day later my dad left quietly just before midnight on March 3. There has been a sense of deep guilt at ever wishing our beloved father dead, which I am sure others in a similar position have experienced.

But an earlier passing would have been so much more merciful.

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