How to Die with Dignity
I will admit I began with a preconception. With being a practising Christian, I'd initially wanted to respect the sanctity of life. We were, I always believed, invincible until the Lord said otherwise and called us home. It wasn't our place to preempt His decision, or so I thought until my former wife died. That ended thinking of generalities. From now on, this is not about the concept of dying with dignity. It's about how I would arrange this for my own death. Let's begin with some background.
First, I should tell you that the circumstances around my former wife's illness dictated we move to a retirement home. This home you should know was not the Hollywood version with its vibrant and attractive if aging people who still want to dance, play golf and make love. It was instead a warehouse for the very old and tired but not yet terminal. They were instead people with not a lot going on in their lives. While their hearts, lungs and money had yet to give out, many would merely sit around, filling in time, not doing a lot. I doubt they were actually ready to die but I couldn't help wonder, why bother?
Second, it changed my mind about drugs. Her cancer hurt like hell and as the chemo wore down, she needed relieve from the pain. That didn't come from the opioids, dispensed like M&M's by her doctors. Those left with a swollen gut and a mind made of cotton batting. For any hope of clarity and comfort as she died, she needed street-bought cannabis. And after a lifetime of keeping the law, do you think I cared if buying it was illegal?
Next came the urgent writing of her will and what to do about heroic measures. Here I was helped. I'd recently witnessed a friend who refused to give up, absorbing all sorts of expensive treatment while enduring all sorts of pain, and to no good purpose. It hardly extended her life, and it didn't seem that dignified. This led to an easy decision. For my wife back then and for me in the future, there'd be no heroic measures. Once it became obvious that death was inevitable, please don't interrupt the process.
Still that was then and now I must deal with my new situation. I'm still in good health but at my age, death is an ever present fact. I must provide instructions. I have a new someone in my life, and she will be my advocate provided she survives me. However,if she should go first, I need a second advocate, and that presents a problem.
My lawyer can execute my will and any related financial matters but is bared from making medical decisions. I have no children of my own, and it happens that I'm an immigrant. There's little now left of my original family but I have a niece who I would trust in this role. However, she does not live on this continent, and a medical advocate must be accessible. Should I not be able to make an informed decision, somebody has to act for me. If not, I will get to hang around while nature takes its course. That's too hard on the young. One: It ties up the will. Two: It costs a fortune in taxes.
Mental health should not be an issue. I know our law makers are struggling to deal with younger people with mental health issues and seeking assisted suicide. These may not be terminal illnesses. They could get better, leading extensive and productive lives. I wish then well but that's not an issue for me. I'm old and I have a good attitude. I'm not likely to have a strictly mental condition needing assisted dying. If I think my life's not worth living, it will be because I'm right.
Again, it's no issue with with most end-of life illnesses, stroke perhaps excepted. I'm expecting I'll be aware of my situation and able to make an informed decision. My problem is getting dementia without having an advocate.
Again, it depends on what dementia. Luey Body can be fast, so may not need any intervention. Alzheimer's however can hang on for years, the person not being in pain, using up resources but no one placed to make a decision. That I would hate. Last, there's Parkinson's, which terrifies me. However, if it also makes me incompetent, how would I get out of it?
Back now to the original question. How do I construct a legal document and appoint a suitable advocate for the possible situation where I wish to die with dignity but have lost the power to give that decision? If you want to know, I have already begun the process of working this out. I am talking to people and doing research so wish me luck.