Anthropology of death looks into the various cultural variations and commonalities on how the society and humans responds to the loss of their loved ones . Nobody wants to die, at the same time nobody wants to die in a bad way. Hence the definition of what a good death is ?. People often talk about the importance of a good death and wanting to have a good death . I believe having a good death is different for each individual, each person has a unique attitude, cultural background and spirituality. A good death is a safe death ;one that is free from grief and distress or any kind of suffering .People die in hospitals after long illnesses and diagnosis. Patients, families and doctors face the hardest decisions of end of life as it becomes much more complicated for everyone involved. The purpose of this essay is to examine the different angles of how medical technology in the assistance of dying has impacted positively on what a good death is and further expatiate on the importance of end of life services.
End of life services can be described as the medical care and support given to a person throughout the time surrounding death. Such care does not necessarily happen only when the heart stops beating or breathing ceases, because older people often live with one or more chronic illnesses and are in need of constant care for weeks and months, so this medical care is already given to such people during the time of their illness. As a person approaches the end of their life ,they and their families face the most challenging and complex times of their lives. These may be practical, spiritual or medical in nature. For instance, a dying person and their families are often faced with decisions about what kind of end of life care they want for the dying or what kind of caregiver they might need and in some cases may want to plan their funeral.They also decide on how they may wish to spend the limited time they have to live, some may want to spend time with their loved ones, some might reflect on their lives or maybe get closer to God.It is important to decide what end of life care you would want in order to die a good and peaceful death. There are several options to end of life services , it is totally the decision of the patient or the substitute decision maker to decide what kind of care be provided. End of life care might be different for some people with certain illnesses. For example, a patient suffering from dementia. Such patient would find it difficult to assimilate and would no longer be able to communicate clearly,at this point they can not share their concerns or what kind of end of life care they might want. Caregivers often find it difficult to care for such patients, because someone with memory loss might not even remember what he/she wants but would rather go with whatever option is made available rather what he/she would want .End of life services are more difficult when the dying person has not expressed the kind of care he or she would have preferred.
There are several options to chose from in deciding on what end of life care you would want. It is important to have conversations about how you want your final days to look like. Firstly, the palliative care, in this case the patient is made to feel as comfortable as possible and helps in pain management. Secondly, there is “Do not resuscitate orders”. This is a signed document by the patient instructing the physician not to perform CPR(cardiopulmonary resuscitation) if he/she’s breathing or heart stops. Thirdly, there is the refusal of treatment method where the patient is able to refuse treatment even though it is going to save life , the patient also decides anytime to stop receiving treatments.There is the palliative sedation as the name implies this kind of treatment is meant to make the patient comfortable and eventually die from the illness, it is not meant to accelerate death. Finally there is the medical assistance in dying. Medical assistance in dying is a process whereby a patient asks to take hisher life by the assistance of a doctor. The doctor then prescribes a medication to the patient in lethal doses, this then allows the patient to decide how, where and when they want to die. They could choose to take the pills with friends and families present or peacefully go alone. Personally after doing my research and with the help of my anthropology of death course I have been able to decide on my preferred end of life service and my perspective on it.
All end of life decisions and medical choices have complex physical components and consequences that have a significant on suffering and the quality of living and dying. However, the medically assistance in dying is the most challenging for terminally ill people and those who care about them. Medical technology in the assistance of dying has impacted in the assistance of death positively to achieve a “good death”. In anthropology a good death never happens by chance, especially when you are dealing with the modern medical system. According to CNN, based on statistics the medical assisted death law was enacted in 1997. Since then, there has been substantial increase in both prescriptions of the lethal dose and deaths. In Canada the medical assisted death law became legal in June 2016 and over 2000 Canadians have ended their own lives with medical assistance. Modern medicine is capable of doing what was considered science fiction 20 years ago. People die every minute in the world , but surprisingly how they die has become progressively contentious as the need for medically assisted death has become more widespread and popular. This is because suffering is a part of human existence. A dying person’s visible suffering can be more devastating to his/her immediate family than to any one else and at this point it is sad to realize the patient is in so much pain and agony. The only solution would be assisted death. Medical technology has been of great impact in the society and an outstanding achievement in end of life. For example, a family that is not financially stable but has a sick relative laying helpless on the hospital bed for months. Medicines for terminally ill patients have a high price, the cost is sometimes unbearable for the patient’s family and as each day goes by the hospital bill also increases.The cost of maintaining a dying person is really expensive, human life is costly. Some patients might be aware of the challenges facing the family and might want to put a stop to the unnecessary suffering and cost .
It is often difficult to determine who is eligible to access the medical assistance in death. Healthcare has undergone changes since the legalization of the medical assistance of death in June 2016, when the government adjusted the Criminal code of Canada to allow the medical assistance in dying. Since the country gained access to it, it is obvious Canadians are happy with the law and want the service . Although it is sometimes difficult to ascertain who is eligible for this service.
“The Criminal code states that patients may be eligible if they are mentally capable (competent) adults and are eligible for government funds health services”. Doctors have a duty to acquire consent for end of life care from the patients or their alternative decision maker. Only the patient is supposed to request and give consent to it, alternative decision makers; father,mother husband or children do not have the rights to make the decision unless given the consent to. Furthermore, doctors need to encourage patients to include their family in the medical assistance of death discussions, to help ensure they are on the same page as the patient in order to reduce the possibilities of issues arising after the patient’s death.
In addition, I was able to converse with a few people to get their views and opinion on this topic. During my conversation with one of the people I got to talk to, she expressed her opinion on being open to the idea of people employing end of life services, because she believes that if there are aids that can help a terminally ill patient pass on without pain and with ease, she sees no reason why he or she should not make use of them and achieve a good death because he is most likely to die anyway after several sleepless nights and intolerable pain. The other person said he does not think that it is a procedure he would want to try because it does not sit right with his spirituality. He went on to say he believes that what would be would be and that, the person may eventually get well. He thinks it is almost the same as committing murder. I believe the motive behind an assisted death is not to murder or kill ,but to innocently and peacefully put a stop to the outstanding severe pain of a suffering patient. Some religious viewers believe ending one’s life is immoral , but i believe those people with such viewpoints should not supersede others with a different view. Even the bible says that it is an unmoral act to end a life without the act of God.
Religous beliefs has influenced the way people perceive this topic. Growing up in a christian home and my cultural background also, this kind of death or any kind of end of life service is forbidden. It is considered murder and not condoned. God is the giver of life and as such only he has the right to take a life. Doctors do not have the right to take a life .Some people with severe illnesses realize that having a religious belief system makes it easier for them to cope with their emotions while some people start to question their belief and try to seek God. Some patients also do not follow a religion, it is absolutely important to respect their beliefs. However, I believe humans do not deserve to undergo so much suffering, laying on a hospital bed day and night ,not being able to live a normal life like everyone else; it is often depressing. It is better to end one’s life sooner than making the whole family take care of the patient everyday and he/she eventually passes on. Religiously it may seem as though, it s only a patient with faith and a strong religious background that could comfortably reject an end of life care. Even in the bible it says If you have faith as little as a mustard seed,you can move mountains. However a patient with such belief would hope for the best and hope to get better . Faith is an important issue around the time of death. It is important to support a patient’s faith and belief at the end of their life. We are all created differently and live in a diverse community where people of different religious and cultural traditions have different expectations and needs. A physician should always ask questions about his patient’s faith and not make assumptions. The more you know in advance the better you are able to support the patient and their family at desperate times. Different religions see things differently. The Jewish believe that there is no obligation to prolong the dying process and that people do not have to suffer pain, so they believe the palliative care serves a very important role. Similarly, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism see taking care of a terminally ill patient as a core value and also says that death is suffering but not unexpected. They do not advice on any form of end of life care but teaches to accept death while still acknowledging life is precious.
Consequently, some people are still convinced that committing to any kind of suicide is still an unmoral way to end one’s life, but I believe no one should be in constant pain while waiting for their lives to end ,who would believe it is ethical and humane for a patient to keep on suffering for months without improvement ? Are we meant to scrutinize this morally correct? No, this is because keeping patients alive and suffering is not respecting the sick. In general, medically assisted death should always be in the mind of the terminally ill patient, there is nothing wrong with this idea, but the exception to this idea is that the patient has to be terminally ill and let them make the decisions on whether they want it or not .It always has to be their decision . Medical assisted death should not be considered murder. I truly believe if anyone was in this situation they would prefer this idea rather than be in pain. Also, not only would they end the pain of just the patient but also of their families and loved ones.
YouTube. “Facing Death : September 2015.” Online video clip. YouTube.
National Film Board of Canada. “Griefwalker : 2018.” Online video clip. National Film Board of Canada .