Friday, March 23, 2007

This post: On death and dying.

It's been a bit of a whirlwind in my personal life recently. As I mentioned, there's been a death in my family, that combined with a motherboard failure on my home PC put me out of blogging for a while.

A little less than two weeks ago my grandmother, who has already been dying of cancer, fell and broke her hip. She survived surgery, but stopped eating after that, and soon went into kidney failure. She was still in the hospital and placed under "comfort care," as she didn't want any feeding tubes or to be put on a ventilator. Her children flew in to be with her, staying with her 24-7 until she passed. I would visit each day, but was not there when she passed.

My one uncle is very religious, and had been praying for her, and the priest has been to visit her. I have never known my grandmother to be much of a religious person, but she did attend church in her younger days. My own mother is very science minded, and from my conversations with her, does not believe in an afterlife (at least, not the heaven/hell type place in the bible). While it is really rough on everyone, I found these different approaches to her dying somewhat fascinating. My uncle called upon the priest and god to ease her suffering, while my mother called upon the nurse and morphine. From my point of view, neither seemed all that effective, in the end, all we could do was hold her hand in her suffering.

It's a tough process watching someone's body fail them, and seeing how much pain it is causing, with almost nothing you can do for them. At her age of 88, with all of her ailments, if not for modern medicine, she would have died long ago. On another occasion, several years ago she was in the hospital and in pain, when I asked her what I could do for her, her response was "kill me." On one hand, it's really rough knowing someone is in so much pain they wish to die, and yet incapable of facilitating that on their own. It's not something I dare assist her with, out of fear of the consequences, though I somewhat wish I could have.

Watching her own suffering makes me wonder if I would be more likely, when I got to her age, especially if I knew I had a terminal illness, to take myself out while I could. Depending on their beliefs, and the situation, would death that way be any worse on the family? I often view suicide as a selfish act, but when someone is already suffering their last days, is it more selfish to deny them quick release?

Next post: Funerals and rituals.


Blogger David W. said...

My condolences. I lost my grandmother only a few months ago. I know how difficult it is to see the end, and being completely helpless.

How could anyone witness someone's body failing them, and believe that we were designed intelligently!? That's right there next to thanking God for surviving a hurricane, and not blaming him for all of the ones that were killed.

12:40 AM  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

It is one of the things about religion that concerns me. The notion that no matter how much someone is suffering, that it is a sin to intervene on their behalf if they so request. Not only a sin, but against the law in many countries.

5:38 AM  
Blogger new.atheist said...

Dave, thanks for your condolences, and there's a lot of stuff about the human body that's poor design aside from how our bodies fail on us. (Seriously, what designer integrates the fun-organs with waste removal?)

Beep, I can understand that the laws might be there to protect those who cannot speak for themselves. But, there should be a way to protect those who need protection and still intervene when requested. I do think suicide is a selfish act, but sometimes that selfishness is very justified. It can also be very selfish to keep someone around against their own will, or to make them feel guilty for wishing to die when they are in such pain.

4:47 PM  

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