The diary of Nancy Crick.
February 7, 2002 6:52 AM   Subscribe

The diary of Nancy Crick. Ever watched a parent or loved one die in agony? Ever begged a doctor to put them out of their misery? Should people be allowed to die with dignity? Read the diary of Nancy Crick.
posted by chrisgregory (33 comments total)
Site is metafiltered. Couldn't find a google cache.
posted by luser at 6:56 AM on February 7, 2002

God, if that's true, it's pretty awful. I certainly wouldn't want to live that way. I don't know what else to say. I'm all for legalizing euthanasia for terminally ill patients. This is pretty strong supporting evidence.
posted by starvingartist at 7:15 AM on February 7, 2002

I watched my father-in-law die from cancer in 1994. He decided to die at home, with care from hospice (I cannot say enough good things about hospice).

At one point, when my father-in-law was already unconscious and, as it turned out, just days from death, the hospice nurse gave my mother-in-law a prescription of pain relievers and told her pointedly, "Give him as much as he needs." My mother-in-law, who understandably was in pretty bad emotional shape at this point, either didn't get the subtext or chose to ignore it, and my wife and I didn't have the courage to bring it up with her.

In hindsight, I don't think it would have mattered at that point, as my father-in-law was already unconscious and seemingly not suffering as much as before.

After that experience, my wife and I have written living wills and made it clear that if we're in the legal situation where one has to deciee whether pull the plug on the other, there's no question that we'd do it. But, it's situations like my father-in-law's that are tougher. When you're healthy, you say you'd kill yourself if the suffering became too great, but when you get in that situation, things aren't as clear-cut.
posted by tippiedog at 7:43 AM on February 7, 2002

My father was diagnosed with bowel cancer and before he died he suffered more than Christ ever did. I can answer yes to all of the hypothetical questions I made in the original post. And although I can appreciate the difficulty that euthenasia poses for professional medical people, for a close relative to be forced to end the suffering themselves is a terrible, terrible thing.

Euthenasia should be legalised. The right to choose to die with dignity should be an inalienable right. Perhaps Nancy's diary will help the cause.
posted by chrisgregory at 8:08 AM on February 7, 2002

"Perhaps Nancy's diary will help the cause." Probably not. This is not new. Stories like this have appeared time and again.

Many people are of the opinion that we're all supposed to die the way some god intended, with lots of suffering, and at the time the god chooses (whatever that means). And letting physicians or others in the medical community accelerate the dying process is either inherently evil or will lead to involuntary euthanasia.

I neither understand nor agree with that point of view. But its adherents are devoutly steadfast and apparently impervious to reasoned persuasion.
posted by yesster at 8:25 AM on February 7, 2002

I have a terminal disease which luckly is pretty mild at this stage. However, the final stages are pretty awful and painful, when all my lung tissue will have turned to scar tissue and I die by slowly suffocating. It's a long, nasty process. When this happends, I WILL die when I want. I will get pain killers from everyone I can and do it the way I want to.

Fuck the people who want to dictate the way I die and force me to do it "naturally." Get the hell out of my life. Unfortunately, another strike against them, most people who want to keep euthanasia outlawed are Christians who are, yet again, forcing their belief system on me.
posted by aacheson at 8:56 AM on February 7, 2002

aacheson: I'm sorry to hear you have a terminal disease, but I applaud your attitude toward your death. I just hope and pray that when the time comes, you're able to it carry out as you wish now.
posted by tippiedog at 9:03 AM on February 7, 2002

We in Oregon have voted twice for this, and now John Ashcroft is imposing his tough Christian love on us and keeping us from this error.

aacheson, I hope it goes well for you and that you enjoy the rest of your life and die easily and peacefully, but then I guess I wish that for all people whether they are sick or not.
posted by Danf at 9:09 AM on February 7, 2002

We all have a right to die (and live) in dignity. However, I disagree that medical professionals have a responsibility to end life. My personal belief is that medical personnel have a responsibility to relieve suffering, and to allow people to live until they die.

It is not their job to take life, but they must absolutely become better at relieving suffering.

Theoretically, medical science is at the point where pain can be controlled adequately if the medical personnel involved are trained and not afraid of using analgesics.
Many physicians fall short at this task, however. Unfortunately, training in the use of analgesics usually involves horrendous warnings about respiratory depression and other side effects (addiction usually cited, though in practice the vast majority of treated patients never become addicted...not to mention the lunacy of addiction concerns in the terminall ill). Many physicians are thus timid and probably too conservative in their use.

It is true that analgesics must be titrated carefully, but physicians and nurses involved with hospice programs usually understand the use of tiered pain-relief systems, and the use of special therapies for conditions like neuropathic pain. Adequate pain relief administered by experienced practitioners usually does not mean someone will "be out if it" ie with mental status changes. The goal, usually obtainable, is complete relief of pain without excessive sedation.

Some suggestions:

- get involved as early as possible with hospice. Hospice personnel are usually experts at pain control and other end-of-life issues. The goal of most hospice programs is to allow people to live as fully as possible until they die. This is not to say that hospice-involvement is some kind of absolute death sentence - many people do in fact "graduate" from hospice. Involvement in hospice does not necessarily mean that other treatments must be withheld.

- INSIST that pain be controlled. If your physician is not adequately treating pain and other suffering, get another physician. Ask around...check into cancer support groups, for example. Or get a referral to a program devoted strictly to pain control. Many university health systems and other large hospitals have a complete department devoted solely to the evaluation and treatment of chronic pain.

- don't suffer with pain, thinking that it has to be a part of the disease process. Pain control helps immensely in maximizing the possibility of healing, but also adequate analgesia helps a person complete the immensely important tasks he or she encounters at the end of life. Suffering with the pain means you are not giving your body the chance it needs to heal, and the chance your mind and spirit need to continue growing.

- decide beforehand about issues like whether you desire such heroics as intubation, emergent cardioversion, CPR, and so forth (in the setting of terminal illness...and for the most part in other settings...these are usually futile and undignified exercises). Create "do not resuscitate" documents if that is your wish, and make those wishes known to your physicians. As tippiedog points out, living wills are excellent ideas. Designate who will have authority to make medical decisions for you should you become incapacitated (usually termed designating "durable power or attorney for health care decisions). Make your wishes known to that person.

- sign a donor card.

- if you are the primary caregiver of a terminally ill patient, seek respite from that care occasionally. Again, hospices are usually set up to offer home-health nursing, counseling, social work, and even such help as meals as necessary.

- continue learning and growing. I know many people who say their terminal illness is the most spiritual and life-affirming experience imaginable. You are not alone, for we are all on a journey to where you are now. As you cling to the rope above the chasm below, with the brilliant tiger clawing at you and the parting rope from above, taste that one red strawberry growing improbably from the cliff face.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 9:45 AM on February 7, 2002

Excellent comment, f&m. Kudos.
posted by Avogadro at 10:14 AM on February 7, 2002

I'm not judging anybody in unbearable pain. I just see death as the enemy,okay? Euthanasia makes me really really uncomfortable. And i say that as someone who has stared suicide in the face personally.
I have a friend with stage four lung cancer. He is choosing alternative treatment along with prayer...if he were to lose,he will be with God-but we all still see death as the enemy, and we support him in his fight.

I think a doctor who won't give a patient in pain enough pain meds should lose his license to practice medicine....heaven and earth should be moved to make sure that a person's suffering should be eased as much as's not like you are going to make a morphine addict out of a cancer patient!
posted by bunnyfire at 10:26 AM on February 7, 2002

We all have a terminal illness; it's called life. As someone far closer to the end than the beginning, I resent being made to feel like a criminal for contemplating my own preferred method of ceasing to exist.

In addition to outlawing a natural herbal pain medicine, the fundamentalists also feel the need to dictate how and when I'm able to die. I try not to let this anger me, but sometimes wounded animals bite.

Bullets and tall buildings seem a needlessly violent alternative to compassionate care-givers and medical professionals. I think we should all have the option of dying peacefully in our sleep.
posted by johnnyace at 10:50 AM on February 7, 2002

continue learning and growing. I know many people who say their terminal illness is the most spiritual and life-affirming experience imaginable. You are not alone, for we are all on a journey to where you are now. As you cling to the rope above the chasm below, with the brilliant tiger clawing at you and the parting rope from above, taste that one red strawberry growing improbably from the cliff face.

I'm sorry, is this supposed to be funny or something? Maybe this echos your experience with terminal illness. If it does, you're very lucky. But it sounds like Patch Adams bullshit to me.
All the people I've seen die of protracted terminal illness lived their last days in agony; physical and mental. If I'm on a journey toward watching my own leg rot off my body, or toward a pain induced dementia that causes me to weep for hours on end, then sweet mother of jesus let a bus hit me now. Maybe people could find certain terminal illness "spiritual," but I think death isn't really like the movies, where you sweat a little, gasp twice, and croak. Death is horrible and painful and degrading, for the most part.
posted by Doug at 11:30 AM on February 7, 2002

Aren't there a collection of issues around life insurance and legality with euthenasia? As in, I'd happily commit suicide to shorten the amount of suffering I'll have to endure during the course of my terminal disease, but if I do my family will be destitute since they won't be able to collect on my life insurance.

I'm certinaly no expert on this, but this seems like an equally large quandry for the terminally ill if it's true...
posted by daver at 11:32 AM on February 7, 2002

I just see death as the enemy

To sleep, perchance to dream.

aacheson and others, I stand by your choice. No-one who isn't in your situation has the right to judge.
posted by walrus at 11:37 AM on February 7, 2002

the hospice nurse gave my mother-in-law a prescription of pain relievers and told her pointedly, "Give him as much as he needs."

I got this message (and control of the morphine pump) in my father's case. I knew exactly what he meant. It was a weird moment. I knew what my brain told me was the right thing to do (it was my father's wish too), and I did it, but I was SO ANGRY that the burden was put on me. In essence, I had to kill my father. I didn't want the responsibility for the act. The decision yes, the act no.

Someone else can swoop in and take care of everything else in life if you ask; it's cruel not to allow people to take care in cases like this. Doctor assisted death should be legalized -- strictly controlled yes, but legalized.
posted by dness2 at 12:02 PM on February 7, 2002

Doesn't the "death is the enemy" sentiment directly contradict the "heaven" sentiment? Seems the only christians who should fear death are those who believe that they are hell bound.
posted by yesster at 12:07 PM on February 7, 2002

one other point that i am loathe to bring up...but i must...terminal illnesses are hell, we all agree on that point i would hope. But if you have not made your peace with God, the hell does not end with the last breath.

I can already hear the atheists out there screaming at me. It's okay, I know your points verbatim, you can save your time posting if you like.

If you choose to end your life i won't stop you, you have been given free will by your Creator, same as I have. But before you rail at my Lord, consider .......He knows what a painful death feels like from personal experience.

Again, I believe in pain relief to the max. bring on the morphine. Heck, I don't have a problem with pot for medicinal purposes. If some doc accidently gave too much morphine and someone quit breathing, i wouldn't call him a murderer. But I think that there are some people who let fear make them check out a little too soon...I can understand that-heck, who wouldn't??
But eternity is not something I am willing to play dice with.
But again, I have chosen who i will serve with my life. I am not telling anyone here what to do-only offering some food for thought. I understand what I say will make many of you angry, and that does make me sad- but I still have to say it. I do hope you understand I am not saying it out of any arrogance or without compassion....

death stinks.
posted by bunnyfire at 12:08 PM on February 7, 2002

I believe in eternal life...death is simply something that happens because the body I live in is not eternal.
I do not fear death. But as a responsible mother, it behooves me to hang around awhile.
posted by bunnyfire at 12:13 PM on February 7, 2002

Even as a Christian, I believe in the right to die at will. I'm not smart enough to comment on how this fits with my theology, but then again I've never understood the fundamentalist christian argument against Euthanasia/Suicide.
posted by Jongo at 12:16 PM on February 7, 2002

Oh, and yesster, some (in my opinion "good") Christians do believe they are hell bound.
posted by Jongo at 12:18 PM on February 7, 2002

If my life is eternal, where was I before I was born?
posted by kindall at 1:27 PM on February 7, 2002

"I know many people who say their terminal illness is the most spiritual and life-affirming experience imaginable." I liked the rest of your post and found it very helpful, F&M, but this part is just plain silly. I will never ever be glad to have this crap. It's not life-affirming, it's a load of pain and agony, mental and physical. I don't know how my husband deals with the knowledge I am going to die young. There's absolutly nothing good about it. It sucks from start to finish.

Bunnyfire...your last post is spoken like someone in perfect health. Walk in my shoes for a while and I bet your tune would change. And Jesus's death was painful for a short while. Not a whole goddamn lifetime.
posted by aacheson at 1:31 PM on February 7, 2002

in the loins of your ancestor.
posted by bunnyfire at 1:31 PM on February 7, 2002

aacheson, i have bipolar II....not the same kind of agony as cancer, but there are times when death would be more welcome than Christmas morning.

And as for Jesus, in my belief system, he bears all our burdens, which means that for my friend with stage 4 cancer, He feels every pain right along with him-along with every single bit of agony of the entire world.

And let me tell you something. Don't think it isn't hell to find out at 10:15 pm Christmas eve that one of your best friends in all the world that you love like a brother, that has just about literally saved your life more than once, has just gotten that cancer diagnosis, and that it is ALREADY stage four.....don't think for one moment that any of this discussion is academic to me, because it isn't!

Don't tell me i don't know despair, because I have plumbed the depths of it.
I am a Christian, I don't believe in suicide, I have everything to live for-and I came very close to ending it last fall. That is the kind of disease I fight-one that could kill me from the inside out.

So I think I have a right to an opinion on the subject.
posted by bunnyfire at 1:47 PM on February 7, 2002

Bunnyfire, please accept my apologies for dismissing your post. Your previous post just seemed too "everything will be just fine if you believe" for me.

I'm glad you have your faith to keep you afloat. I can see that it is very helpful for you. However, I cannot believe in a "good and forgiving god" if he/she lets this crap happen. I cannot believe that suffering forever on the earth, through the last hour of the last day of my life will make it all the better in heaven. I cannot believe that because Jesus "suffered and died" for me, that that should make me feel even one iota better about the state of things.

I have everything to live for too, but when it gets really bad and I'm going to die soon anyway, well, there just isn't anything left to live for, in my opinon.
posted by aacheson at 1:57 PM on February 7, 2002

Sorry, I meant "Bunnyfire, please accept my apologies for dismissing your ORIGINAL post that I responded to."
posted by aacheson at 1:59 PM on February 7, 2002

I'm sorry, I don't mean to be a prick, but really, didn't Jesus give your friend cancer? He DESERVES to feel it. Every second of it.
posted by Doug at 2:01 PM on February 7, 2002

Jesus did not give my friend cancer, nor did he give me bipolar!

We live in a fallen world, and it rains on the just and the unjust. Bad things happen to all of us, and good things happen to all of would take a long time for me to explain here what i believe about these things, but I am settled in my own mind....I just know if it wasn't for the Lord I would be dead by now, or as good as dead. I also know of people that have been healed by prayer .....miraculous healings....yes, I know people who have been prayed for who don't get healed too, but who said I know all there is to know about anything?

It is okay to be angry at the pain, and it is okay not to understand....but God gets blamed for a lot of stuff that he didn't do.......if I thought for one minute that God gave my friend cancer I 'd be pissed....but I know better.
posted by bunnyfire at 2:27 PM on February 7, 2002

oh, aacheson, it's okay. No apology necessary....
posted by bunnyfire at 2:29 PM on February 7, 2002

At the risk of having a "slobbering Depeche Mode Fan" sticker firmly affixed to me by MeFi, I'm going to make another Mode-based post:

Does anyone remember the song Blasphemous Rumours? It sort of reminds me of parts of this discussion. So, um, there you go.
posted by verso at 3:31 PM on February 7, 2002

in my belief system

In my belief system, this issue has nothing to do with religion, which is personal.
posted by walrus at 3:43 PM on February 7, 2002

... excepting additional commas ...
posted by walrus at 3:52 PM on February 7, 2002

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