Journey of the End of a Lifetime

by Joanna Smith on Jul 19, 2016

This is a blog about the end of a life, an option possible because of the newly established California End of Life Option Act.

I Can’t Do What I Want To Do Anymore
I first met PS when she was in a nursing home after a hospital stay. I had been contacted by a physician who had an End of Life Options Practice where he assisted people at looking at all of their end of life options: Palliative Care, Hospice and Aid in Dying.

PS was 65, depleted after a chaotic stay in the hospital and a discharge to the nursing home for rehab “to help her get strong again”. Her speech was slowed by her cerebellar ataxia, but her intent was clear: “I can no longer do the things I want to do; I can no longer be spontaneous; I can’t walk with my walker and I’m not getting stronger from rehab. I want to pursue my option to end my life and take the medication so I can die with dignity.”

I had had to think long and hard before I had decided I could work with her. I teach and credential people who want to become advocates: could I offer her the open support and good boundaries this process required? This would be her own death, and my work was to help her have as easy a process as possible. No room here for doubts on my part or counter-transference. Could I support her one thousand percent in her quest? Because if I could not, I had no business being an advocate on her behalf. At this point, she needed people who were complete in their support of her wishes.

I had decided that I was one of those people–took a deep breath–and stepped forward to help her create the kind of death she wanted.

First Best Practice for Advocates Working With Aid-In-Dying clients: Know Thyself. Very well.

5 responses to “Journey of the End of a Lifetime”

  1. Peggy says:

    Bon courage, Joanna, through these uncharted waters….you’re just the right person for this very challenging work. All the best, Peg

  2. Joanna, you are an incredible leader who models the way for so many of us. Thank you for taking the time to share this experience with us. I look forward to receiving future posts about your experience, and more importantly, about the experience of your client.

  3. Donna M. Post, RN CLNC/Mid-Valley Legal Nurse Consulting, Inc. says:

    I cannot think of a more qualified Advocate to assist this client in her journey.

  4. Paul Siman says:

    It is my personal belief that we as individuals, who can weigh the pro’s and con’s, be allowed in any situation to make the decision based upon having all of the available information and resources possible. Government intrusion, from medicals and acceptable treatment is a barrier to research as well as personal preference, and whether an advocate or just a citizen, everyone should speak up. The law is a step in the right direction, but it is tedious and cumbersome. To a person who becomes ill, with rapid progression and pain, the time frames required exclude this group. In addition, there is no clause that deals with exceptions (in the version I read), a problem with many regulations. But we all have the right of choice and should have self-determination and die with dignity. Anyone, even healthy individuals should make known in their living wills and healthcare proxies that this is an option they wish to be implemented. It shows that you have thought about the subject long and hard and it was not a spontaneous decision. Life is precious, but when in extreme pain, and life is diminished, no one should judge the decision made by the person electing to end their suffering. We need to be a more compassionate society, it would do a world of good.

  5. […] “Journey of the End of a Lifetime”, Healthcare Liaison, 7/19/2016 […]

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