Four participants considered dying in their sleep a good death. One of them hoped death would at least be painless. Another said that for himself he would like to have a quick, unexpected death, but he would not wish that for his loved ones. All participants mentioned their own wishes concerning care at the end-of-life and six mentioned having recorded their preferences. The four participants who considered dying in their sleep a good death indirectly referred to the body as determinant of the moment of death. Four participants mentioned medical professionals as agents determining the moment of death.
One of them related how he thought a nurse had helped his partner with terminal cancer along after the doctor had refused her euthanasia request. A fifth mentioned discussing her advance directive with her general physician every year. Another had written down her wishes together with her partner and presented these to her children. Finally, one participant described dying as being taken by the Lord and another viewed her death as decided by fate.
Three women mentioned their wish not to burden others. In order not to burden her descendants with maintaining a grave she wished to be cremated. For the same reason another wished that the remains of her and her buried partner would be cleared out ten years after her death. Only one of them wished for a religious funeral. No one mentioned a wish to be buried and five mentioned their wish for cremation. I have always worked at sea. And I love that. Three intended to leave certain decisions concerning their funeral or the disposal of their body open.
The essence of the euthanasia attitudes of the third group of participants, consisting of six males and three females, is their endorsement of the right of older adults to determine the moment of their own death by means of euthanasia. Five participants in this group are Catholic, two are Protestant and two are religiously unaffiliated. Of the five Catholics one went to church weekly or more, one several times a month, two monthly and one did not attend church but believed in God and had remained a church member because of his wish to be buried in a Catholic graveyard alongside his deceased wife.
For one woman her Catholic faith was blended with alternative spirituality. Three Catholic men mentioned having united their religious beliefs with science or scholarly learning. Of the five Catholics two believed in an afterlife, two doubted the existence of an afterlife and one did not believe in an afterlife. One of the Protestants, who went to church several times a month but had many religious doubts, did not believe in an afterlife. The other, who went to church weekly, had strong beliefs and also believed in an afterlife. Of the two religiously unaffiliated participants, one neither believed in God nor in an afterlife.
The other believed in God but doubted the existence of an afterlife. The first had experienced a previous period in which this had been the case: I had already discussed with my family doctor that, if my partner would die before me, I would wish to part with my life.
Because then life no longer has any meaning for me. To sit there in that apartment, and have nothing to do… What does this life mean to me anymore? And now I am valued for what I do in different areas. And that is, what I just said, not only to let me know how much they like me, so to say, but also that I still mean something for science and for humanity. So that gives me the courage and the will to live once again. Apparently, after a perceived social death he had regained a social life.
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And then I would preferably be able to say: I quit. The second participant strongly emphasized his right of self-determination: And if I see life as, well, completed, that is my decision. And my decision should be respected. You first have to suffer more before… He will not say that, but suffer much more before you can make an end to it. Nevertheless, he mentioned that in such a case he would prefer palliative sedation to euthanasia because he preferred a natural death.
No, if I can keep doing all of this, that this way I do my own… I can take a nice shower, can shave myself, I can make myself a sandwich, I can do the dishes and do everything myself, fortunately.
Between Two Worlds
Three other participants stated their wish to receive euthanasia in case of certain medical conditions but also stressed individual self-determination. The first had been suicidal previously while suffering from depression: I did not want to live anymore, because I could mean nothing for anyone anymore. Well, then I thought I no longer had the right to live. Yes, that is of course ridiculous. I think. Now I find that very weird.
But then I really thought so. Still, she wished for euthanasia if she would get dementia or get depressed again.
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Although both dementia and psychiatric disorders are medical conditions under which euthanasia has been given in accordance with the Dutch Euthanasia Law Regional Euthanasia Review Committees, Regional Euthanasia Review Committees Annual report Because then you can only do wrong… wrong things.
The second participant not only stated her wish for euthanasia in case of an incurable disease but also supported the letter to Parliament of October Yes, yes. I think, I think, that should be possible, actually. That people are actually allowed to decide by themselves whether they wish to end their life. That, that… That bill, I find it very important that that would pass.
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And that it would really, well… come into effect, finally. Also for me personally, really. But if, so to speak, I would become completely dependent, then, then, well…. If you are no longer able to see a way out. At least, I think so. Because… But then there must be a profound reason.
Not just, well, I had a bad day today and now I will just leave.
But if you…I would…in such a case…Yes. The last three participants did not mention euthanasia for themselves, but supported self-determination concerning euthanasia in general. The first considered life a gift that can also gratefully be given back.
The second stressed the right of individual choice concerning euthanasia: Yes, I find that a very personal thing. Everyone should know that for themselves. Everyone…one person thinks of it like this, another thinks of it like that. But I do think, well, that they should leave people free to choose. And then, then I say: Yes, there should be a solution for that. In accordance with the self-determination that is characteristic of this group, all participants expressed their wishes concerning life-prolongation.
Neither do I wish any life-prolonging treatment. Eight participants expressed acceptance of or resignation towards death and six mentioned not fearing death. Four, however, mentioned dreading dependency or a protracted illness: I just hope death will not try to break me before I die. Also, three mentioned dreading dementia.
Three participants mentioned dying in their sleep as a good death. Two mentioned a quiet, peaceful death; one of them also mentioned the presence of children. Further, two mentioned a quick, unexpected death.
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However, one of them regretted the effect this would have on the bereaved: If you would suddenly die from a cardiac arrest or so, for me that would be the best death, actually. But I find that for the…. All participants mentioned their own wishes concerning medical care at the end-of-life and five mentioned having recorded these. Moreover, four mentioned talking about these wishes with their children, one with her sister and four mentioned discussing it with their doctor.
Related Into Your Hands Lord: A Catholic Companion to Dying and Hospice Care
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