15 votes

Thinking about death

Up until recently my girlfriend’s grandmother had a relatively good life. She’s taken care of, had some interesting allucinations, slept most of the day and had funny interactions with her grandaughter, some of which ended up on Instagram.

In recent weeks, she started refusing food and spent days at the hospital. The sudden lost in autonomy made her hostile. It’s a struggle to change her diapers. The situation was made worse by the feeding tube up her nose, which she attempts to remove non-stop, and can only be replaced at the hospital. We had to restrain her arm. That is no way to live.

She's made it very clear she does not want to be in this world any longer. Today I heard a hundred year old lady scream, multiple times: "just let me die!".

I don't know what to make of it.

Edit: I'd like to thank everyone's answers. I wasn't really looking for a solution since the legal situation in my country does not allow for any wiggle room. But it is always nice to read the smart people of Tildes passionately explore their ideas, sharing knowledge with compassion. Sometimes it is enough to feel less alone. Thank you and good night.

12 comments

  1. [10]
    Comment deleted by author
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    1. [6]
      Grzmot
      Link Parent
      I absolutely agree that we take it too far. Humans have always had an obsession with immortality, with escaping death at all costs. I don't think that's a good way to look at it. Death will come...

      I absolutely agree that we take it too far. Humans have always had an obsession with immortality, with escaping death at all costs. I don't think that's a good way to look at it. Death will come to us all, at one point or another, it is the only thing that can be said for certain. You have to make peace with that fact, or run from it for your entire life.

      The UN Human Rights charta states very clearly in Article 3 that Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. I think that this should be expanded that everyone also has a right to a death in dignity. If informed consent is given, everyone should be able to pass in peace. A few countries have the option for assisted suicide, and I know that even in the ones that don't, doctors usually help people along when the end is near with unhealthy doses of drugs like morphine where life extending treatments would maybe be possible but really not worthwhile anymore.

      At the very least, everyone has a right to refuse treatment, because it is always voluntary. @mrbig I don't know the laws of your country, but how can it be that a person actively refusing things like IV injections is getting them anyway?

      4 votes
      1. [5]
        mrbig
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        The laws of my country do not distinguish between euthanasia, assisted suicide, and homicide. I'm definitely interested in conversing on the issue but there's nothing we can legally do. I'm...

        The laws of my country do not distinguish between euthanasia, assisted suicide, and homicide. I'm definitely interested in conversing on the issue but there's nothing we can legally do.

        I'm personally not inclined towards euthanasia but I'm also big on personal freedoms, so I'd be willing to respect someone that decided to do so.

        4 votes
        1. [4]
          Grzmot
          Link Parent
          I'm not talking about actively helping your grandma along to the other side, but she should have the ability to refuse treatment unless she is legally declared as not mentally able to care for...

          I'm not talking about actively helping your grandma along to the other side, but she should have the ability to refuse treatment unless she is legally declared as not mentally able to care for herself.

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            mrbig
            Link Parent
            That's not even a question really, legally or otherwise. We don't have these procedures in place. Historically, this is treated as homicide these parts. I am not a lawyer though.

            That's not even a question really, legally or otherwise. We don't have these procedures in place. Historically, this is treated as homicide these parts.

            I am not a lawyer though.

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              Grzmot
              Link Parent
              Maybe I am phrasing this question wrong. So you're telling me that any legally sane individual (i.e. in full possession of their legal rights) cannot refuse treatment if they are sick? What, do...

              Maybe I am phrasing this question wrong.

              So you're telling me that any legally sane individual (i.e. in full possession of their legal rights) cannot refuse treatment if they are sick? What, do they just get locked in the hospital?

              I am not doubting you, I am just trying to understand.

              1 vote
              1. mrbig
                Link Parent
                A sane young person presumably can. A 100 year old pratically cannot.

                A sane young person presumably can. A 100 year old pratically cannot.

                1 vote
    2. [2]
      Staross
      Link Parent
      In Switzerland we have assisted suicide (managed by non-profits, usually for people that are still functional) but also places where you can go die, they are essentially medicalized hotels where...

      In Switzerland we have assisted suicide (managed by non-profits, usually for people that are still functional) but also places where you can go die, they are essentially medicalized hotels where they just give you painkillers and the family can come visit, have lunch, etc.

      Personally I wouldn't mind having some kind of modern ritual where everybody walks up a mountain, the person die and it burnt on a fire or something. The old Christian rituals aren't working so well anymore.

      4 votes
      1. Thra11
        Link Parent
        I often think something like this would be a good way to go. Invite everyone round for a party, have a good time, climb on funeral pyre*. However. from a practical point of view, properly...

        Personally I wouldn't mind having some kind of modern ritual where everybody walks up a mountain, the person die and it burnt on a fire or something.

        I often think something like this would be a good way to go. Invite everyone round for a party, have a good time, climb on funeral pyre*. However. from a practical point of view, properly cremating a body takes quite a lot of fuel and time, so it's probably best done in a crematorium by people who know what they're doing.

        In general, if we're creating new rituals and traditions to celebrate peoples passing, I think we should concentrate on leaving the actual corpse out of it as much as possible. Doing things with corpses (such as storing them at low temperatures for prolonged lengths of time, embalming them, putting them in nice coffins, and so on) is impractical, drives up the cost of a funeral†, and can cause all sorts of problems (overfull mortuaries, refrigerated lorries as temporary morgues when there are more deaths than usual, corpses slowly decaying because nobody's claimed them, etc.). I would want to design our funereal rituals so that the body can be cremated by professionals as early as possible, without any mourners feeling like they've missed out, or haven't done things properly. Having the 'normal' ritual not involve the corpse would also help mourners where the body isn't available for whatever reason (suspicious death so body not yet released from investigation, person died too far away to bring the body home, body missing, etc.).

        * I'm thinking DIY so that, under the current laws of my country, (hopefully) no one else would suffer any legal consequences. Of course the chances of being still physically and mentally well enough to do such a thing, while also being in a physical or mental state where you're ready to do it, is fairly slim.
        † Apparently there are bodies waiting in mortuaries while the relatives try to raise the necessary money to have a proper funeral

        1 vote
    3. grahamiam
      Link Parent
      Two books I'd recommend reading on this subject: Modern Death by Haider Warraich and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. The article "A Good Death" in Harper's by William Vollman is also good.

      Two books I'd recommend reading on this subject: Modern Death by Haider Warraich and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. The article "A Good Death" in Harper's by William Vollman is also good.

      1 vote
  2. cardigan
    Link
    I've never understood the fear of death. I feel ready for it at any moment. The idea that we should keep our loved ones alive for as long as possible is barbaric in most cases. I spent two years...

    I've never understood the fear of death. I feel ready for it at any moment. The idea that we should keep our loved ones alive for as long as possible is barbaric in most cases. I spent two years volunteering at a nursing home to try and comfort the people there, after becoming inwardly convinced that it was a kind of prison, and that I should try to do what I could to help offset the pain of that.

    I often think about this line from Socrates:

    For [the] fear of death is indeed the pretense of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being the appearance of knowing the unknown; since no one knows whether death, which they in their fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good. Is there not here conceit of knowledge, which is a disgraceful sort of ignorance?

    After 2400 years, this is still the case. It is even worse now, because the worldly wisdom that considers death an evil has been employed to postpone it for as long as possible, spending inestimable amounts of resources just to pretend that it does not exist. Our fear of age and death is so profound that we kill tens of thousands of animals each year in the course of testing cosmetics, just to look a little bit younger, and to seem both to ourselves and others a little further away from death.

    3 votes
  3. JoylessAubergine
    Link
    I find it all very selfish. For people and animals. I don't see how you can look at an loved one truly begging for death and think one more day, week or month is good thing. Sometimes you have to...

    I find it all very selfish. For people and animals. I don't see how you can look at an loved one truly begging for death and think one more day, week or month is good thing. Sometimes you have to be the one who hurts. When a living thing stops eating its time to let them die. I don't think it is a mental choice, i've seen humans and animals do it. Its their entire being saying enough is enough. Humans are special, we can make the conscious choice to hold on i believe, even in the depths of absolute delirium. My grandad did last year, he held on until he saw my dad one last time and then passed while he was there. It was strange in a way that makes my fairly ingrained skeptic uncomfortable.

    Maybe its my catholic schooling but something about pro-euthanasia makes me uncomfortable, i think part of me thinks if you aren't willing to do the deed yourself, you probably dont want it that much and therefore shouldn't get someone else to do it for you but i know that is not possible for everyone. But for them surely they could refuse food, but i know for a person at a healthy weight that could be a 3-4 week struggle that could be negated by a simple visit to a doctor.

    This is a fairly rambling post that should be full of asterisks. Hope your girlfriend and her grandmother can both find peace.

    2 votes