Journey of the End of a Lifetime: Home to Die

by Joanna Smith on Jul 22, 2016

She is now home, and Hospice is in place. We still have the issue of the medication to resolve, but the physician has been diligently searching for pharmacies and options. Since neither Seconal itself nor its generic equivalent is available anywhere in Washington, Oregon or California at this moment and we have a person who wants to die in a few days, waiting to sort out the Seconal problem is not an option. P.S. has to be able to swallow the medication herself, and if we wait too long, she will lose her ability to do that and won’t be able to follow her plan. So we go with a drug cocktail: morphine sulphate, phenobarbital and chloral hydrate.

These drugs are readily available at a compounding pharmacy, and they cost $400 instaed of $3,500. Since pharmacies are not currently accepting any insurance payments (because the insurance world has not sorted out whether they will pay or not), this is also privately paid for by my client. Dying is not free….
So finally we have her home and we have a pharmacy preparing her drugs.
How does she envision her last moments? We talk about who she wants in the room with her when she takes the medication. Initially she says just the physician and myself: she wants her family to say goodbye and be in the next room when she takes it, and then come in to sit with her. The Hospice nurse and social worker cannot be in the room, per Hospice protocol. That is the current plan, but I reassure her that she can change whom she wants with her at any point in time.

We laugh about how absurd it feels to be planning her own death. “I never belonged in the nursing home”, she says: “those people were trying to get well and I didn’t want to and couldn’t”. She smiles: “My plan was different.” It turns out she had been watching the news, planning her time frame and waiting for when she could legally end her life. “That woman who went to Oregon” (Brittany Maynard) “she did it. I thought about moving to Oregon, but then the law passed, so I could do it here.” Another smile. “This is better”.

Tomorrow’s Post: Today’s the Day