What is doctor assisted death like?
An immediate family member last year was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans (popcorn lungs) with an unknown cause to it. It is something that is not curable. As someone who was a daily part of my life it was hard to watch the condition progress.
His condition progressively got worse and he was transferred to a palativcare physicality a couple of weeks ago. He wasn’t happy living the way he was living and slowly dying. The doctors discussed with him the option of assisted death… something he did not know about, and myself I thought was still not finalized in Canada yet, so it was a surprise to hear this.
After a long discussion with the family and doctors, he signed the papers a week ago to start the process. He wanted to end his life and do away with the suffering and the suffering to come.
So yesterday (Saturday) afternoon was the scheduled day for this to happen. The day started like any other for him… he was very upbeat, laughing, and smiling. All of his close love ones we’re around that morning. We spent hours talking, playing crib, and going through some old memories.
Around 2PM the doctors came into the room, I almost fainted once it dawned on me that it was time – I felt dizzy but I stuck through it. It was even harder to see my kids go through the emotions of it.
What I’m about to describe from here-on-out is very surreal… the doctors sat down next to him in the chair and asked if he was ready to begin the process. He instantly said he was. The doctors then put two ports into his veins, gave him a relaxant and made his recliner comfortable. She explained the first needle he would get would be a heavy anesthesia, which would take him under within seconds, a second needle to numb any pain because the rest of the needles would be nerve-killing, and without it, he would feel a burning sensation. She explained to him it would be just like falling asleep. They then left the room and told us we had as much time as we needed before they would begin.
We all said our goodbyes and shared some final moments through his tears and ours. We agreed we didn’t want to prolong the process and make it any harder, so he had the doctors come back in about 2:30PM.
They carried in roughly 8 needles and laid them on the table next to him. We all stood around him and held his hands. The doctor sat next to him again and put the first needle into the port and asked him if he was sure he still wanted to go ahead with this process.
He said “Yes my love, do it” – my mind was racing when he said this, a rollercoaster of emotions came over me as he grabbed our hands tight and the doctor pushed the needle in. Within seconds you could see his expression change to a relaxing state, he started to mumble some stuff about where he lived… the doctor told us this is the needle kicking in. She then pushed in the second needle right after and he was still grabbing our hands. She then pumped in the remaining milk-looking needles (which I assume was for the nerves). His grip got a little loose, he closed his eyes, and his breathing slowed down. I can’t fathom the time this took… it was like everything was a standstill, but it seemed about 30 seconds, and his breathing and heart then stopped and it was over.
It tears me up writing this out today but I wanted to share my experience going through it and get awareness out there for this option, if any of your family members are terminally-ill, this is an option for them. I have so much respect for the bravery it takes for someone to go through this process – to sit there and have your life taken away, it takes a special kind of person.
I want to thank this great above-and-beyond civilized country for having this option available to him yesterday and I hope my story can help ease some minds about what the process involves. Its truly peaceful for the patient to go through.
What does it feel like to starve to death?
This is an excerpt from a book called What It Feels Like. This is from the bit written by a guy who, with some other men went on hunger strike while he was in prison.
“All we could consume was water and salt so our bodies could perform their natural functions. We dipped our fingers in salt about six times a day and drank about 6 pints of water so our kidneys and liver were flushed.
Your body fared a lot worse if you had a lot of fat. It burns the fat before the muscle and fat burns with a toxic residue that puts the kidneys under a lot of pressure.
At the time I was 10 and a half stone (147 pounds), already thin from a prison diet.
The first few days you always feel hungry. But you know you’re not going to eat so it’s an emptiness rather than a hunger. After that your stomach shrinks, so you don’t even have that empty feeling. By drinking water you can make the stomach feel like there is something in it.
I was moved to the prison hospital after 21 days. By then I was a lot weaker and walked a lot slower. If I got out of bed to quickly, I got dizzy and nauseous.
When you’re on hunger strike your sense of smell becomes very sharp, even as hearing and vision fail.
I was getting more gaunt and flesh was dropping off around my shoulders.The temples and cheeks became sunken and my head looked narrow and shrunken. The collarbone became exposed and my hips disappeared into my bones. My spine and ribs became very prominent. Blood vessels started to break down in the arms and face; I could see small blue marks under my skin where they had burst.
At 40 days the vision goes. First I got blurred and double vision, then a mix of the two. Finally I got to the point where I didn’t want to open my eyes because everything was blurred.
During the last days, we were lying on sheepskin rugs and they were rubbing us down with cream every day to stop the skin from breaking. I didn’t really experience pain, but people did get sick and throw up all the time. I had nothing to throw up but green bile. It took a toll on the body because all I could do was retch. This happened to me at 66 days.
I urinated because we were drinking a lot of water. We discovered that during the last stages they would have a bowel movement, which was a very painful experience. Whenever this happened to someone, they generally died within 2 or 3 days. At 60 days this happened to me. I went to the toilet for about 2 hours. It was very dramatic and painful and it felt like my insides were ripping apart. People would scream because it took so long. After it happened I was helped back to my cell and I didn’t get out of bed after that.
After 68 days my situation was considered critical and my family was brought in to see me. After 70 days I slipped into a coma and then my family authorised medical intervention. By this time I weighed 7 stone (98 pounds).
After treatment in hospital for 3 weeks I was sent back to prison. I could hardly see and had to hold on to the walls in order to walk. I got nauseated if I stood for too long. 3 days later the hunger strike was called off.”
What does it feel like to have an heroin addiction?
I’ve been an opiate addict for a long time and tried many drugs. Drugs that are ‘uppers’ have the most ‘obvious’ euphoria. For example if you take adderall/coke/meth/speed/MDMA you will get this shining bright euphoria, self confidence, energy, and other drug-specific feelings (for meth like you are king or for MDMA like you love everyone). However, you owe these drugs back what they delivered to you. After a meth binge, or lots of MDMA use, or staying up all night on coke you will feel like shit. To an extent this aspect is similar to an alcoholic hangover.
On the other hand, for many people who experiment with heroin they are underwhelmed (not including IV usage, but most experimenters rarely ever IV first time). They just feel good, chill, happy, but they feel like this spooky drug ‘heroin’ hasn’t delivered. They are just mellow. Oh obviously it has all been a lie they will think. Heroin isn’t spooky, it’s chill. It’s not addictive like everyone else thinks. It doesn’t make you do stupid shit or stay up all day and hallucinate like amphetamines or coke. It doesn’t empty your serotonin like MDMA or give you a hangover like alcohol. People tend to just think oh, what a nice drug.
So the next day they wake up and everything is normal. No headache or shitty feeling–just a slight afterglow of that nice feeling. Oh it was cheap as well! It only cost $10 for a whole night of being high! I thought people said heroin was expensive? And then next weekend comes… There are all these drugs I could do but I liked heroin. It didn’t ‘fuck me up,’ I could still think clearly. No hangover. No feeling like shit later. I still was awake. It just made me happy and content with life. Oh and it’s only $10! Well, I should get some more for the whole weekend. This is great! I will use Heroin on the weekends now!
Now let’s say this person works and has responsibilities. He knows he can’t go into work drunk, or on MDMA, or high. So he doesn’t. It’s actually simple. But heroin… Well the user might actually find they do better work on heroin. Instead of being sad or grumpy or depressed with his job… he is just… happy. Mellow. Content. Everything is fine and the world is beautiful. It’s raining, it’s dark, I woke up at 5:30AM, I’m commuting in traffic. I would have had a headache, I would have been miserable, I would have wondered how my life took me to this point. This point I’m at right now. But no, no, everything is fine. Life is beautiful. The rain drops are just falling and in each one I see the reflection of every persons life around me. Humanity is beautiful. In this still frame shot of traffic on this crowded bus I just found love and peace. Heroin is a wonder drug. Heroin is better than everything else. Heroin makes me who I wish I was. Heroin makes life worth living. Heroin is better than everything else. Heroin builds up a tolerance fast. Heroin starts to cost more money. I need heroin to feel normal. I don’t love anymore. Now I’m sick. I can’t afford the heroin that I need. How did $10 used to get me high? Now I need $100. That guy that let me try a few lines the first time doesn’t actually deal. Oh I need to find a real dealer? This guy is a felon and carries a gun–he can sell me the drug that lets me find love in the world. No this isn’t working, I need to quit.
To answer your question, heroin feels nice. That’s all, it just feels very nice. You can make the rest up for yourself. Attach your own half-truths to this drug that will show you the world and for a moment you will feel as clever as Faust.
What does being an ‘Adult’ feel like?
“I’m sorry to bring you here like this.”
“Not at all, my dear boy. Not at all.”
“But, you see, I have to know… I have to know, and you’re the only one –”
“I get it,” the old man interrupted me. He puffed his cheeks weakly, like it took him great effort just to breathe, and then he leaned back against the armchair and his eyes turned to the crackling of the fireplace. “Ask away.”
“Well… it’s pretty simple, actually.” I leaned forward. “What’s it like?”
His eyes turned to me, and he almost smiled. “What’s it like?”
“Yeah. Life. Growing up. Being old.” I paused. “Well, not that I’m calling you old, I just –”
“It’s okay, dear boy,” he laughed. “I am old. That’s why you brought me here.”
I said nothing. He arranged himself on the armchair like he had all the time in the world. Then his eyes went up to me again. “It’s… hard.”
I waited. I knew he wasn’t done.
“It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do, actually” he continued. “Harder than building all this fancy equipment you’ve built. Harder than studying all you’ve studied. Harder than winning all these scientific awards you’ve won so far.” He chuckled. “Nothing prepares you for it.”
“What makes it hard?” I asked. “Is it the responsibilities? The body decaying? What makes growing up so hard?”
“No. It’s not the responsibilities. Growing up is like looking both ways before you cross the street, then getting hit by an airplane.” He lowered his head as if to put his thoughts together, then continued. “It’s the things you don’t expect that catch you by surprise. Sure, it’s scary to have a kid, and to get married, and to ask your boss for a promotion, and all these grown-up stuff we have to pretend we know how to do.”
He seemed surprised. “Yes, pretend. No one really grows up, of course. We put on a face to the world, but at home, three in the morning, all alone watching TV, you’re still sixteen. All of us are.” He shook his head. “There’s nothing more heartbreaking than being a real person and sitting down in front of another real person, and then both of you have to act like fake people. You sit across from someone two years older than you in a job interview and you both say ‘Hello, sir’ and ‘Yes, I also think the Dow Jones has been fluctuating dangerously this last few days’ and ‘Oh, absolutely, the 405 is a nightmare this time of day’. And all along you know you both laugh at poop jokes and fart sounds and you have all these hobbies and interests and you curse and say fuck and shit and asshole. You’re real people. But you act like robots. You have to put on the face, and they have to put on a face, and you have to pretend that nothing in life is ever fun, everything is productivity and seriousness.”
“Is that what makes it hard?” I asked. “That everyone’s just… faking their way through adulthood?”
“No. No, that’s expected. It sucks, but we all know what we’re getting into.” He sighed. “No, what catches you by surprise are the little things about growing up. It’s being stuck in traffic and remembering a day. Any day. A locker room conversation in high school. A teacher. A friend of a friend. Something that happened long enough ago that it could order its own drink. It sneaks up on you, and you look at yourself in the rear view and you think, my God… where did it go? When did I become so old?
“I remember college like it was yesterday. I remember my girlfriends and my friends and they used to drink and talk about sex and hanging out and now they all eat oatmeal and go to funerals. And I do that to, and I like all of that. Well, not going to funerals, but oatmeal. Soap operas. Going to bed at nine. I like it.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is I’m still the sixteen year old. I’m still the college kid. My needs and wants have changed, and my body has changed, and my mind has changed, in a way, but I didn’t change. I’m still putting on a face. So when these thoughts sneak up on me – when a flash of a college party or a roadtrip or the feeling of falling asleep in the back of my Dad’s car wells up on me… it breaks me. It breaks me because I don’t think of it fondly. I don’t look at that young kid with affection and nostalgia, I look at him with envy. Envy, because he’s got all of that ahead of him still, and he doesn’t even know how lucky he is. He’s me, we’re the same – but he’s got the good looks and the health and all the years ahead of him, and I’m wasting away in an old apartment. And I hate that kid so much. Every time he sneaks up on me I hate him more.”
I looked down, then up. “What about family? Kids?”
“They are great. They are amazing. But they go away. They’re not you. In the end, you raise your sons and daughters for the world, not for yourself. They have to fall asleep in the back of my car, and go to their college parties and all that… they don’t exist for my benefit. No one exists for my benefit but myself. And I’m much too old to do anything about it.”
I swallowed dry and averted my eyes to the fireplace. The old man leaned forward. “We always get the feeling that the good old days are either behind us or ahead of us. They’re never our own days. We were always born just a bit too late to go to Woodstock or to see Nirvana live or to see the Berlin Wall fall or to party Great Gatsby style in the 20’s. And then we get old and we realize we were born too soon to see the wonders of technology and the world reshaping and blooming into something new and exciting. But the truth is, our Woodstocks were happening all around us as we grew. Our new and exciting world was some old guy’s boring present, and our past will be some spoiled, arrogant kid’s ‘Good old days’. We were just too stupid to realize it when it mattered. So we let it slide away. And then we ended up like me – sad and resentful of our younger selves for all they can still do and we can’t.”
Finally, I got up. I went to the old man and I knelt in front of him. “I’m sorry I brought you over.”
“It’s okay,” he said. “I knew you would. After all, I did it, sixty years ago.”
I looked at my own eyes. Despite the wrinkles around them, they still looked pretty much the same. The old man shook his head and sniffed a tear away. “Now let’s go back to your lab so you can send me back to my own time, so I can hate you in peace.”
I hugged my own eighty year old version and leaned away and nodded. “I’ll enjoy it,” I said. “And I’ll know I’m living in the good old days, I promise.”
He got up with difficulty. “No, you won’t,” he said. “The good old days are only ever good when they’re gone. That’s what makes them good. When you’re living through them, they’re just… days.”
He slow-stepped ahead of me towards the lab. Then he spoke without turning his head: “And days go by really fast, man. They go by really fast.”