07 May 2015
by Valerie Yule
The death specialist
We do not like the idea of doctors with their Hippocratic oath and ideals to save life, being given the powers to help people to die. Yet many of us as we near the end of our life wish to avoid the extreme pains and troubles - and expenses - of a lingering dying.
It would be possible to have ‘death’ specialists to whom we could be referred. These specialists would know all about palliative care and also about ways to die easily. They could counsel people referred to them, and know when to help them to survive, and when to offer them the means of serene death.
People would be happier in their minds when they knew they had this power themselves to jump off the twig after the specialist gave it to them. Often with this reassurance, they would no longer seek to die. And the specialist could counsel them out of it when they saw fit – and prevent needless suicides.
The ‘death’ specialists would not be under legal threat for helping people to die that other people – doctors nurses relatives etc that these others remained under. They would be registered under the law and have suitable qualifications.
Younger readers may think this an awful article, but older readers think it offers a solution to a growing problem.
Doctors today think they must patch up an older person, regardless of their quality of life.
I have filled in a form requesting no further action when it was pointless, but my doctor refuses to take it seriously. He believes in saving life, even mine when it is no longer any use to me as age 86. He said he would not sign it until I had completed an IQ test to show I had all my wits when I produced the form. This is his way of saying he would find some way to renege on a signature, The IQ test would be failed, because I am so slow in filling out forms, and the IQ test is a test of speed as well as accuracy.
When it is a matter of relatives who are left to consider someone’s quality of life, because they cannot express their desires themselves, I doubt if they could be referred to the ‘death specialist’ unless instructions beforehand from the aged person were firm.
There will still be areas for thinking about facts and opinions. The churches and other institutions would want to have a say about the moral issues involved,
The question of a funeral can also take the deceased’s opinions into account. Many funerals are expensive because the relatives don’t want to appear niggardly. Some people want a showy funeral and save up in their old age for one they would like. The funeral directors have their own opinions and livings to consider too, if too many people don’t want boxes to be burnt or buried with them. Here the Muslim form of a funeral seems better than the Western style. The body is wrapped in a colourful embroidered shroud and brought for burial in a coffin that was not to be buried too. Under a canopy, the shrouded body is laid in the grave, which is then filled in, and the beautiful coffin is kept for recycling.
Other people want their deaths to be useful. What organs can save other lives? Can their bodies go to University departments for research? People should have this sorted out once they are seventy, so that relatives know their wishes,
I discovered that Australian anatomy departments did not want my body, since I was in Britain during the cows’ brain diseases scare. I had gone through twenty years thinking my disposal was arranged – only to have this refusal thrown at me.
Can our bodies be compost to grow flowers or enrich a forest? This should be easier to arrange than it is at present. In Britain it is possible to have a forest burial, in a forest specially adapted for burials. This is much more attractive to visit than a churchyard or cemetery.
Our dying should express the style of our lives, when we have lived economically.
The celebration is not a mourning, and is not for the corpse, but for the spirit. And the wake can be a wake, that everyone can enjoy.