Saturday, September 8, 2012

Whose Life ...?

I was driving home from the farmers market this sunny Saturday morning when CBC's White Coat, Black Art  came on the radio. With a synchronicity that made me gasp, I heard Brian Goldman announce that the topic of today's, and next week's, special broadcast was Nagui's Choice the story of Nagui Morcos' difficult decision to end his life before he died naturally of the Huntingtons Disease that had also claimed his parents' marriage and his father's life years before. As one of his father's caregivers, he knew what lay ahead and he determined not to die in the same way.

What made me catch my breath as I heard the broadcast introduced was the fact that today is the anniversary of my husband's refusal to take further life-saving medication in order to allow his heart failure to "take its natural course". His death, three week's later, was a more passive ending than Nagui's but still a deeply considered and much grieved choice to let go of life.

While hearing Nagui's dignified responses to the interview questions was profoundly intimate and moving, it was his partner, Jan's, description of her process of letting go that broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

I had experienced those same achingly bittersweet moments of shared love and appreciation as our days together counted down. I had wept through the same process of grief and letting go - again and again and yet again - as the time of Derrick's death approached. But I hadn't had to watch as my husband ended his life earlier than necessary because the laws of the land deemed waiting as long as possible, and then being assisted with suicide, a Criminal Code offence. I can't imagine having to walk that journey.      

Whatever your personal feelings about assisted suicide, I hope you will listen to both parts of Jan and Nagui's story. Answers to such complex problems as this are never black and white nor easy to find but listening deeply and responding compassionately to the lived experience of those most closely affected is surely the best place to start.

(You can listen to Nagui's Choice by clicking on the link above and then clicking on the white words, Listen to the Latest Audio. You can also access Dr Brian's blog post on the topic - Nagui's Choice: Dr Brian's Take ).


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