by Ken Rolheiser
Palliative care and euthanasia Part 1

No matter how kind you are, German children are Kinder.

And I happen to have been a German child, so I will try to be kind with this topic that is very sensitive in today’s world. “Palliative Care, Euthanasia and a Happy Death” happens to be a chapter in The Road All Runners Come which is my next book venture.

“God wants us to live well, but he also wants us to die well. There is a tremendous gracefulness required to die well. This is something that is too rarely spoken about.” (From DYNAMIC CHRISTIAN)

Father Mark Miller presented a workshop on Proper Care of the Dying in Preeceville August 31, 2016. Miller spent some sixteen years at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon caring for the dying.

Father Miller shared that “dying is natural”. Things happen in the lives of the dying that are extremely important to the family and the dying member. That is why assisted suicide is not good and is not natural.

Fear of pain is perhaps the greatest fear of the dying. In Canada today, Miller said, there is no need to die of unbearable pain. Morphine and other drugs will provide relief. Struggling for breath is a second anxiety. The use of respirators can help to alleviate that situation.

Father Miller shared the example of a dying mother who was breathing at 5%. Everyone was tense and worried about her shortness of breath. The doctor administered a sedative that night; she relaxed and had a restful night. When the family came in the morning she sat up, looked each one in the eye, smiled, and then passed away peacefully.

Things happen in the lives of the dying that are extremely important to the family and to the dying member. Father Mark shared the example of a mother of six whose children had become estranged. They would not speak to each other, and no one would visit the mother if another sibling was there.

When the mother was unconscious the nurse contacted the children individually, since they did not have each other’s phone numbers. First one of them came and held the mother’s hand. Then a daughter came and held the other hand. A son arrived …eventually all six were there. Then the mother died. Her work was finished. She had brought her children together. It was a final act of grace.

Another example Miller shared involved a forty two year old business man who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. “I have the right to be bitter,” he said angrily. His was a twenty five million dollar business and he was just ready to work less and get to know his family. In the two and a half weeks he had left he got to know them and love them. He told his nurse, “This cancer was a gift.”

There are benefits to dying in a natural way. Miller shared the example of dying a man who just wanted to “get it over with”. The Nurse asked him, “Do your grand children know who you are?” The man spent his last three weeks writing an autobiography to let his family know who he was.

Advance planning in palliative care involves setting up health care directives in the event they are needed. The good news about dying is that it is a natural process and can be a positive and learning experience for family members.

(576 words)