How my grandmother died with real dignity and love

Earlier in August a former New York Times reporter, Jane Gross, published a book about her experience where she allowed her elderly mother to die of starvation and dehydration while in hospice care.

She talks about how “dignified” her mother’s 13 day slow ordeal was while inside she wished her mother would “hurried up and die – especially since her mother was not terminally ill. Her mother was depressed because she was not independent anymore.

In many levels, this hits a personal note. My 90 year old grandmother had been sick for a while. On July 29th she lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital with acute kidney failure and sepsis.

A few days later I left for Mexico and accompanied my mother, aunts, uncles & cousins to the hospital. There we learned that my grandmother needed an amputation due to acute gangrene, and required several platelet transfusions.

Making an amputation decision for someone that is dying seems absurd. Doing such a surgery did not make any sense at this stage of her life. Was this a heroic measure? Is it worth it to put someone in pain through more pain and suffering?

It was difficult, but her quality of life was rapidly declining. Together, with the rest of my family decided to go ahead, with the amputation. We asked the medical personnel to make her life as comfortable as possible.

My grandmother briefly recovered from the surgery. She never quite regained her awareness but was able to take some food and drink before the hospital could not help her anymore and sent her home.

After a couple of days, she died in the loving arms of one of my aunts while being sang psalms. In our hope we know she is in a place of no more suffering. And know we helped her passing in the most dignified way.

I do not claim things were perfect, there was enough drama amongst relatives to write a soap opera worthy of prime-time in Univision. But at the end, we all though of the well-being of grandmother, and not what was more expedient and comfortable for us. We somehow put aside differences to help her live as a loved human being until her last breath.

Jane Gross in opposition describes a distant half-family, and how the decision of the starvation/dehydration death was made by her and her mother. There is no mention of medical personnel suggesting treatment for depression. Or any involvement from anyone else.

There is a brief mention on masking  the “unpleasant” symptoms of the death by sedation and pain relief.

The author also says that: “There was no pretending I hadn’t been part of her decision, and had arguably even encouraged it. Many experts say that old people often choose to end their lives, or say they don’t want them extended, not because of their own genuine wishes, but to spare their children trouble and expense. We needed to be certain that my mother was doing this for herself, not for me.”

Sorry, sounds like Ms. Gross encouraged this more for her than for her mother.

End of life decisions are hard and painful, no matter how well laid your plans are. In this case it seems that the desire of getting it over with overcame compassion for and the understanding of her mother. The promise of pain relief surpassed the search for the real reason she wished to die.

The only mention of other family member was her brother. How sad that at the end of life so few relatives or loved ones will be at the bedside of dying patients. Many of these relatives are only children themselves.

Who in exchange will take care of these only children? Some of whom did to their pre-born children the same they are doing to their parents?

Ms. Gross never mentions children of her own.

In due time, will she make the same decision as her mother on her own? Or will someone “encourage” her do to so at some time or another?

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