FORMER Nurse and Euro Weekly News Reader and blog writer Ian Hickin has written about his experiences and shares his views on euthanasia in Spain And France especially.
Just over two years ago I watched my Dad die. He was 95, he had pneumonia and was in renal failure. It took two weeks. We knew that he would not survive and in agreement with the Consultant, we agreed to withdraw active treatment and intervention. He was on oxygen, given regular nursing care in a single room and was conscious until his last 24 hours of life. He was unable to eat, he had difficulty swallowing and was drowning in his own sputum which needed aspiration on a regular basis. It took two weeks for him to die. This is called passive euthanasia. It is not a good way to die for the individual or for loved ones to witness. It took two weeks.
Having worked as a nurse for most of my career, in practice, in education and in government, I fully understand why situations such as my Dad’s death pan out like this. Practitioners are legally and ethically bound to adhere to the rules of the land, which in the UK and many other countries around the world, prevents active euthanasia or assisted dying.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic, on a daily basis, I read how stretched secondary and tertiary care facilities are around the world, how many hospitals are short of personal protection equipment, ventilators, drugs, beds and appropriately trained staff. Knowing that on an hourly basis, staff are making extremely difficult decisions as to who is a priority for active treatments and care and who should be allowed to die because their prognosis is very poor. Anyone who has worked in frontline services will understand the intense sense of responsibility for such decisions and the impact it can have on individuals and teams of health care providers.
I read reports from Spain and France where doctors are facing the temptation of euthanasia and rationing the use of ventilators to those under a certain age. I know from personal experience, when resources are short, when the drugs appear to have little efficacy and when there is intense pressure to put effort into saving the life of someone who has a fighting chance, those who are no longer likely to recover are made as comfortable as possible and cared for until death occurs. The difference between Covid-19 and my Dad´s death is that we were allowed to be by his side and give him comfort and love in his last days. In end-of-life care for those with Covid-19, in the main, this responsibility falls at the feet of the healthcare team.
I read that in some cases, Doctors are prescribing morphine to avoid the futility of healthcare for those individuals who are deemed beyond help. I understand that Catalonia’s government has decided to let die, coronavirus patients who have less years to live and recommend no admissions in hospital of patients with little benefit. I suspect this is happening around the world. Assisted euthanasia and passive euthanasia is happening thousands of times a day. I understand why and call on the professional bodies for medicine and nursing, governments around the world and the judiciary, for urgent and transparent guidance on these issues, professional and legal support for all practitioners faced with such decisions and clear and fully supported mental health support for the post-traumatic stress many of these practitioners will experience. I believe the Covid-19 crisis should bring about urgent change to allow assisted dying and active euthanasia so that individuals who will not recover can die with dignity and without pain and distress.
Ian’s full blog can be read at