A very different question this week:
"What can I put in someone's IV that will kill them fast?"
This person was writing out of compassion not hate. Someone they love has a terminal illness and asked them to do this if the pain got too bad. (Think: Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby)
It is a hard question. I feel for the person who wrote because I have been in this situation many times.
We are all going to die one day—many of us from illnesses that are long and painful. Everyone mentally acknowledges this as a concept, but when you are on the receiving end of such news it still hits you like a ton of bricks.
It is not uncommon for people to get in a very dark place after this news. Despair, fear, and hopelessness are understandable emotions given the circumstances.
Doctor D is by no means the final word on such a heavy topic, but perhaps I can offer some perspective from a doctor who has accompanied many patients on that difficult final path...
The good news is that depression is not the end. Most people recover from depression, especially depression that is due to horrible news.
We all work very hard to convince a suicidal but otherwise healthy 20 year old that life can be better and their depression can be treated. Why should we not similarly address the depression of terminally ill patients? Whether someone's life will be decades or days they can live to the fullest when supported by people who love them.
Often when a dying person asks someone to kill them it is a cry for help. In their despair they are asking, "Am I worth anything anymore?"Every terminal patient that ever asked me to die, they later expressed to me their joy in life and how much they value their time once they had made peace with what was happening. Depression can be treated allowing people to pass with a peaceful heart.
The answer they need to hear is, "Yes, you are still worth everything to me! I may not be able to save your life, but I will cherish and honor you to the very end."
Do not doubt the value of a human spirit, even during the final hours! Doctor D once watched a dying woman do more good during her last day of life in a hospital bed than he has done in all his years of practice.
There is no reason that anyone with terminal illness needs to die alone and in pain these days.
Some patients wonder if they can trust the doctors and nurses involved with Hospice to really care about their pain. "Aren't a lot of doctors jerks who enjoy hurting patients who complain too much?" I admit, there are some callous doctors, but I have yet to see a single one involved in the hospice system that wasn't about as kind as a human can be.
Love, support, respect, and connecting them to resources that can help them through this difficult time is the right and humane approach.
Anyone have any experiences with Hospice?
I realize that suicide is a difficult topic with lots of emotion on all sides. Please share opinions and discuss with respect.