I Let Her Die: A Story of Suicide by Starvation

What does it mean to be a human being? What does it mean to live a dignified life? Should the two not go together? When a person no longer has any real awareness of her existence, no recognition of previously loved friends and family, no control over body functions, no ability to feed herself, is this a dignified life? Is this a human existence? How much worse the situation must be to a person who exhibits all of the above losses, but who still retains enough lucidity to understand the situation. Living must be a torment, a “hell” on earth, except to those who still retain a belief in a “heaven” after death. To someone like that, the only control left, is over food. Whether to eat and live, or refuse to live, and die. Suicide by starvation. I was faced with just that situation.

I let her die. When my aunt was admitted to a nursing home, she weighed about ninety pounds, and was hardly eating. The team of doctors, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, suggested a feeding tube. They were shocked by my immediate refusal, as they felt it was the only way to keep her alive. I was the [...] continue the story

An Account of Frustration with the System

Late last year, at the age of 51, I got sick for the first time ever. My family doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, so she told me to go to the ER. I resisted this for several weeks because I hadn’t been shot or anything. We should not be delivering primary health care via the ER – it’s much too expensive! After about two months, without any other options offered by my family doctor, I finally realized that if I was going to get any help I had no choice but to present in ER, even though it wasn’t a life threatening situation. I wasn’t even in any pain at that juncture.

I spent about 4 hours in the ER of the hospital where I work (as a social worker) and was treated quickly and with dignity – in no small part because I am on staff. I was told, in so many words, that there aren’t many “perks” in our field, but that when we get sick, we will be cared for. I thought this was a bit unfair towards people who don’t happen to work in a hospital. This was pretty much the end [...] continue the story

My Rise From Near-Self Destruction

To be or not, as Shakespeare said, or to live or not to live. That was the question which plagued me. I was now seventy-seven years old. Did I want to live into my very senior years, given that I had developed neuropathy which was hampering my ability to walk and causing me great pain? Then, a further question appeared; would it take more courage to commit suicide, and avoid the painful future which would include a lessening of my faculties, both physical and intellectual, and would include requiring someone to look after me, or to choose to live, and accept the years and changes to come, as a challenge?

I had always been healthy, strong, and independent. Thus the concept of not walking, and needing someone to look after my daily needs was an anathema to me. The neuropathy had probably been developing over many years, as I can now recall getting tired faster, and not being able to walk as far. Also there appeared a numbness and tingling sensation in my legs, along with pain up my legs and into my back. As well, the tingling had begun in my fingertips. So now fear really set in. How long [...] continue the story