Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Morituris Omnibus: Thoughts about Death and Dying

I have created this new blog to work through my thoughts about my mother's death, and also to educate myself about the right-to-die and about death with dignity. As I write these words, it is Day 17 of my mother's self-imposed starvation. No one expected that she would survive so long; in a later post, I will share some of the details about what those 17 days have been like. Suffice to say that we are all praying that her ordeal will end soon. Please let it be tonight.

I have always been a supporter of the right-to-die and Death with Dignity legislation, but now it has acquired a very real and personal urgency. Here is a link to the FAQs at the Death with Dignity National Center website; one of those questions addresses exactly the situation in which my mother finds herself:

Can't people simply hasten death through overdoses or by refusing medication, nutrition or hydration?
Ironically, such measures can take several weeks before resulting in death and may include unanticipated and agonizing effects — effects that often can only be palliated through days or weeks of deep sedation. In contrast, the purpose of the Oregon and Washington laws is to provide dying patients with the control, predictability and peace of mind that comes with knowing the how and when of death.

My mother chose to stop eating in order to assert one last act of control over her life and her death, but I don't think she realized that this would lead to an ordeal that is now in its third week; I certainly had no idea that someone in such extremely poor health could survive so long without food and now, for almost a week, with no fluids. She began arranging hospice care earlier this year before embarking on this path, and the hospice nurses and doctors have been wonderful. Yet these dedicated and skilled medical professionals are not able to change the fact that dying of starvation and dehydration can prove to be a long and painful way to die.

I spent ten days with my mother, Day 5 through Day 15 of the ordeal. My aunt (her sister) arrived on Day 11 and is there now. If the ordeal goes on, my aunt will have to go home this week, and I will go back again, and so we will continue to trade places until the end. One of the hospice nurses told us that her mother lived for a month like this; I can only hope my mother will not have to endure such suffering. 

She deserved better than this. Much better.

For now, I will just keep hoping that the end will come soon. Then, over time, I will use this blog to reflect on what this means and also on what I can do to help make sure that all of us have the right to choose a better end to our lives when that end comes.

I will begin by learning everything I can from the website.


  1. Oh! You poor Love. Hang in there - poor comfort know but when she is gone it will great knowing you did all you could to support your Mum in her decicion to die in the way she chose. My heartfelt sympathy Laura

  2. Oh Laura :( I'm so sorry you have to go through this. This is so so hard. Karen is right, you will always know you did everything you could to support her decision - but it wow what an incredibly tough road. so much sympathy.

  3. Deeply saddened by the trauma that both you and your mother are going through. can only feel the depth of pain as there are no words fit enough for its expression. As your mother goes along the choice she has made so so bravely and you supporting her with equal courage and strength, may both of you be blessed by Him to make this easier and bearable . With you in my thoughts...

  4. There is so much courage in this post. Your mothers and yours as well. I don't know what to say but I will be reading. Every word.

  5. I am so sorry. Praying for peace, rest, and comfort all around.

  6. Thank you, everybody, for all your kind comments! My mother really was courageous as Satia says, and I hope that we can all find courage to get through our struggles and the struggles of those we love. I know we can find better ways than what the medical and legal system offer us now.