I am in two minds about "Advance Directives" or "Living Wills" as they are called. It seems to me that these could be difficult to enforce even if fully supported by Act of Parliament because in the event of an accident or sudden illness occurring away from home or if unaccompanied by someone who knows your wishes, the last thing anyone arriving at the scene would think of is: does this person wish to be revived or not? I believe that the first thing anyone would do, instinctively, would be to to whatever they could to preserve life at all costs!
- Jean Randall
(The Scottish Voluntary Euthanasia Society supplies its members with a wallet to hold the living will and encourages them to carry it on their person, together with an "alert card" that fits in the wallet or purse. Decisions about whether to continue, or instigate life-sustaining treatment are often made once a patient has been stabilised as far as possible, and by this time the belongings may have been examined and the presence of a living will discovered, or so one hopes... - Ed.)
I have worked as a Staff Nurse for many years and it never ceases to amaze me the pain and suffering people are made to endure in the name of "humanity." I have seen people die in the most appalling circumstances, and would not like either my family or myself to suffer the same way.
What particularly annoys me about this is, that to a certain extent, euthanasia exists in hospitals today. When people are dying (whether from disease or accident) one of the first things the consultants do is to put them on a morphine pump. This is attached to the patient via a needle in their abdomen and it gives a slow, continuous dose of morphine. Morphine is a respiratory depressant and causes the patient to die quicker than they normally would (with a few exceptions where they built up a resistance to the morphine). This is legal and basically amounts to a form of "helping people to die." However, if anyone asks why the patient needs it, they are told it is because the patient is suffering from a great deal of pain and this relieves it. Now, of course terminal patients have pain, but I have rarely seen a level of pain that requires the dose and amount of morphine given. The morphine dose is increased on a daily basis (again with a few exceptions) whether the patient requires it or not. One surgeon I worked with told me to increase the dose and "knock him over the edge... the quicker the better."
The other way people are helped to die in hospitals is through the withdrawal of all medical help. The patients are either N.F.R. (Not For Resuscitation) or N.C.O. (Nursing Care Only). It is the consultant that takes this decision, and all forms of monitoring and medical intervention are removed. This includes Total Parenteral Nutrition (T.P.N.) feeding. This is where somebody is fed through a catheter which goes straight into the bloodstream, usually via the sub-clavian route. this happens often. So, what I would like to know is, why is all the fuss being made about removing naso-gastric feeding? Why is it all right to withdraw T.P.N. feeding but not N.G. feeding? Why is it acceptable to increase the dose of morphine someone is getting, when they have no more pain, but it is not acceptable to give them a lethal injection which would have the same effect, only quicker? I have seen too many people die in too many terrible ways. It would be nice if the moralist do-gooders could see past their own selfishness and allow people to die with dignity. it is the people who are left that are hurt. When there is no hope the very least we can give people is dignity.
- Hazel Kerr
© 1996 Chris Docker.
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