Wednesday, January 7, 2015


There is a man in Winnipeg who has recently been arrested for not having provided minimal care for his aged mother after she suffered a fall in the home that they shared. She had apparently pleaded not to be taken to hospital as she feared being put into a care facility. Instead, she asked for a blanket so she could remain on the floor. Her son, perhaps understanding her fear, complied.

It took five days for his mother to die.

I have always believed that my body and my life belong to me, Nobody but me has the right to decide what I do with my life except in the case where my actions might inadvertently injure someone else. Should I decide that I do not want to die in a hospital but rather on a mountain top, a beach, or even a bathroom floor, I feel that I have the absolute right to make that choice. Not only that, I believe that my family and my doctor must support me at that point, not fight my decision.

In the case of someone who has dementia, as the woman in question, it gets a little trickier. Does someone with a failing memory lose the right to decide what to do with his or her life? What if the disease is at the early stages when periods of clarity are still possible? Is a person with a brain tumour automatically deemed incapable of choosing his or her end?

I am  not talking about assisted suicide or euthanasia. I refer simply to the fact my life is mine, to do with what I feel is right for me at any given time. I am an adult. I have raised my family and paid my taxes, I am in debt to no one. Why should I not be able to choose where and how I will die?

Statistically, most of us will end up in a hospital or institution. It is simply easier to hook someone up with a catheter and ply them with morphine injections than it is to try to keep them clean and comfortable at home. It also transfers the onus of responsibility onto the medical profession and relieves the legal complications a doting son might have to endure if he were to honour his mother's last wishes.

That doesn't mean it is the right choice for everyone. I, for one, would be horrified to die in a hospital and would do everything in my power to avoid that scenario. I would much rather lie on the floor of my home and wait for Nature to do what it eventually must. The only way to ensure that my choice about my life can be met and respected, is to state very clearly what I want and then back it up with a legal document that would protect my loved ones.

Sadly, the woman in Winnipeg seems to not have left a Living Will behind. Her son, will, therefore, likely pay a hefty price for what I believe was her rightful choice; to determine where and how she wanted to die.

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