This is the story of Pam and John; she in her early 50’s and John is 62. Pam is a college professor. John taught at a local community college until diagnosed with Parkinson’s in March 2008, then Lewy Body Dementia in April.


Monday, October 6, 2008

further conversation about difficult issues

John and I had another conversation today with the therapist about John's intention to end his life before the dementia gets bad. Today we were also joined by our pastor, who was for several years director of a suicide hot line.

I wanted John to hear my feelings that there is no way he could end his life without it being physically and emotionally messy and terribly hurtful to me and our kids. The thing that did get through to him was that I would feel rejected by him.

He talked about the death of his parents when he was in high school and college. His father died unexpectedly of a heart attack, his mother died a lingering death after a car accident. Both were horrible experiences for him. I don't think he can believe that a peaceful death is possible. He also does not accept the idea that he could have quality of life when he is no longer himself. I spoke of how I have come to understand facing our own deaths as a period of learning to give up control and trust God, but that didn't mean anything to John.

The pastor believes that my views and John's are two positions on a continuum of possibilities and if we keep talking we can come to a shared position. I asked John if he was open to the possibility of changing his view and to my surprise he said yes. I said I was open to changing my view (I do believe in theory in his right to make his own decision). But it is hard to imagine a shared position because there is likely to be so large a gap (I'm guessing three years or more) between when he goes past the point of being able to end his own life and when death can come naturally by withholding treatment. He doesn't want to live in that condition.

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