In Spiegel this weekend, Dr. Michael de Ridder advocates a return to simplicity in human death: no frantic rushing about, no elaborate rescue measures:
Dying a simple death is no longer an option in our society, even in places where one might expect to. Hardly anyone dies without an infusion or artificial feeding. . . . I’m reminded of a woman in her late 80s who was still very vigorous. Her daughter brought her to our emergency room with massive intestinal bleeding. A colonoscopy showed that it was caused by a tumor. The bleeding could only have been stopped with an operation. She didn’t want it. She said that she had lived a full life and now preferred to die rather than embark on an indefinite path of suffering. The daughter agreed, and the woman died that same day. It was a totally plausible decision that no one could object to, particularly as bleeding to death is a gentle way of dying.
Bleeding to death is a gentle way of dying? Something to remember, I suppose.
De Ridder also offers this anecdote of a stroke victim:
After having a stroke two years ago, the man stopped eating, could no longer communicate and seemed to have lost all interest in life. He had now contracted a serious case of pneumonia, and the people at the nursing home didn’t want the responsibility. Just as the doctor was transferring him into the emergency room, he went into cardiac arrest. Her automatic response was: intubation, oxygen, ICU! I said to her: “Slow down. This man is dying, and now we are going to allow it to happen.”
Hmm. I think that Emily Dickinson would have liked Michael de Ridder as well. And Charles Dickens might have smiled at his name.