Personal ‘end of life’ experience

I’ve had recent first had experience with end of life issues when I was closely associated with the illness and death of my mother. She had the best possible palliative care through the Otago Hospice.

It has been suggested in the recent public debate in Dunedin that all that needs to happen is for more widespread top palliative care to be available to anyone that wants it.

And also here:

End-of-life issues authority, Otago University bioethics centre Professor Grant Gillett, said the issue was not clear.

The terminally-ill were often unsure about the situation, and wanted to know their options but not go through with any.

“It’s a feeling of being socially isolated, a fear they are going to lose control and that the illness is going to take over, that is behind a request.”

He said instead of giving in to the desire for euthanasia, it might be better to create a more caring approach to treatment.

To an extent this is the right approach. But from my experience it’s not the whole answer.

I couldn’t fault the palliative care my mother received – as far as they were able to provide comfort under the current laws. They seemed to be scrupulous in following the law.

But it was deficient in several key areas:

  • It was always reactive to pain. When my mother was obviously in pain they would administer more pain relief – but this was already reactive, after they noticed she had already experienced pain, sometimes quite severe.
  • The most unsettling and upsetting aspect of my mother’s death was what ended up to be extreme discomfort due to increasing accumulation of liquid in her lungs.
  • My mother ended up in a situation that she had expressly stated she wanted to avoid – she would have been horrified to see here state in the last time of her life.

Pain relief (sometimes reactive) and attentive care did not provide my mother with what she wanted.

The only way of being more caring would have been to have helped her out of her suffering sooner, provided it was clear that’s what she wanted ( from my conversations with her I think it would have been).

This leads of course to the much promoted idea of a person’s right to choose for themselves.



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  1. Maggie Barry, hospices and euthanasia « Your NZ
  2. Euthanasia – links and news « Your NZ

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