Euthanasia, Part Two

Over the weekend, a veneer on one of my front teeth, showcasing that fashionable Howdy Doody look:


Fortunately, my awesome dentist was able to cement it on, but why, oh why do these things happen on a Friday?? 

I had a session today with Kim and was able to ask Erik about the situation in Cuba and even talk to Fidel Castro. Very interesting interview. I’ll try to post it as a YouTube Wednesday. Meanwhile, enjoy the last part on our Euthanasia series.

Kim: Just real quick. He’s reminding me of a patient that I used to have. She was my age. I went to her house and did home health on her. Long story short, she had gastric bypass surgery that was botched. She had been opened up from the belly button to the chest over ten times.

I gasp.

Kim: She had her internal organs rerouted, so she was suffering terribly. She was losing her vision because she couldn’t keep her food down, and her body couldn’t absorb [nutrients.] So it actually got really, really bad. I’ll spare you the details. She’s a person who could have definitely and wanted to be euthanized. She’s someone who has since passed.

Erik: She would have been a great candidate.

Me: Yeah.

Erik: Because we know, looking at her, that it wasn’t going to get better. She had been permanently damaged, and it was causing a lot of negativity in the family. So sometimes, Mom, this can be a ticket to a more positive experience, knowing that she’s not going to have to suffer anymore.

Me: It could be a lesson in compassion for the family and friends.

And selflessness.

Erik: Exactly, and compassion isn’t always easy to give. Compassion has to be outside of your standards and expectations. It has to be an unconditional thing. Even if it can be difficult to lose a loved one, it’s more difficult to watch them suffer.

Me: Oh, yeah.

Erik: In general, euthanasia is not just a quick fix.

Kim: He’s being really blunt about that.

Erik: There’s a lot you have to think about when you’re considering it.

Kim: Will it ever be legal everywhere? Will it be a service like a self-referral thing?

Erik (shaking his head): No.

Kim: He’s not explaining or elaborating.

Me: How do you think it ought to be done. For example, I think in some countries you can undergo euthanasia if you have two doctors sign off on it. Should we have things like that? What safeguards should be in place to make sure euthanasia is done to the people who are good candidates for it?

Erik: Oncologists, musculoskeletal specialists and a variety of other types of doctors who have taken time to look at the case should decide whether to sign off on it or not.

Kim: So he’s saying a whole group of different healthcare providers ought to be involved.

Me: Okay, one last question. You know, sometimes depression like bipolar disease is a terminal one, and in your case it was. You sort of euthanized yourself.

I feel sick inside thinking about it.

Me: Do you think euthanasia in your case was proper?

Erik: Yeah, Mom, you’re right when you said, “You euthanized yourself.” You’re right.

Kim: It’s interesting you say that because he’s kind of equating it to that in the beginning. It’s kind of similar to the way Erik passed away with the thought of suicide.

Erik: For me, Mom, if there had been easy access [to euthanasia] I would have sought that out because, it may have been difficult, but it would have also been less traumatic and experience.

No kidding.

Erik: For people with depression, anxiety and debilitating bipolar disease, this would be something to consider if and only if –because some people have phases where, “When I was 20 to 25, I suffered terribly, and now I’ve kind of grown out of it, moved on or healed.” But if you look back and you’ve always struggled—

Kim: He’s just talking about what security measures we should put in place for euthanasia for people with mental illness.

Erik: If it’s a longstanding history of suffering—

Me: And you’ve tried EVERYTHING.

Erik: Yeah. Even people who have attempted suicide, this would be a security measure to look at and say, “Okay, they’ve had a longstanding illness.”

Kim: In fact, I just spoke to a lady yesterday who said, “Don’t call the cops on me, but I’m thinking about [suicide.]” And she has access to things to exit this world, and Erik was giving her guidance.

Erik: I want to put emphasis on the fact that it’s not something to be frowned upon, but humans do. No matter who it is, even if it’s a perfect stranger, would you rather have them live their whole life crippled with fear and anxiety or depression and they’re tried medicines but they don’t work?

Me: But you never know what the future holds. For example, now they give ketamine infusions to treat depression. Maybe that would have worked on you.

Erik: It would have.

Me: So that’s my problem. If you wait long enough—or an Ayahuasca experience might have helped. There are certain things that could have helped that might have prevented you from euthanizing yourself.

(poignant pause)

Me: But then we wouldn’t have your wisdom as we do now. I guess.

Kim: That’s true.

Erik: It depends on how exotic people are willing to get with wanting to help and cope.

Me: Yeah.

Whatever works! I’d have tried anything to save him.

Erik: So everything you recommended, the infusions and the Ayahuasca, would be huge for people if they’d consider it, but including myself, when people get into that zone with anxiety, depression, bipolar disease and even schizophrenia, they get agitated and fearful, and they want to fix it the way they want. So they get really attached to ideas like suicide.

Kim: He’s showing someone trying to recommend Ayahuasca to somebody, but the person goes, “Well, I’m suffering, and this is the only way out.”

Me: Okay.

Erik: So, it’s really hard to introduce that to people, but I’d highly recommend it, especially Ayahuasca because it can be extremely life-changing for so many people if it’s done right.

Me: Yeah.

I’m thinking, ‘Why didn’t I offer this to him.’ Sigh.

Me (choking up): Well, thank you guys, and Erik, I’m sorry that you’re gone from this world but I’m so glad to have you in that world. Thank you, Kim, for being his voice.

Kim: Of course. It’s my pleasure.

Erik: Mom, I’m always here. I’m here in your world too, just in a different way. You know that.

Me: I know.

Sessions like this one remind me that I’m still not over his death.

Erik takes a bow and blows me a kiss.

Kim: He’s giving you a lot of love and gratitude, and he’s giving a warm greeting to his brother.

Me: Oh, okay! I’ll let him know!

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Elisa Medhus

  • KickAsh Artistry

    I think people get the wrong impression about euthanasia or “Dying With Dignity.” It’s not something that anyone can get anywhere at any time. There are a lot of things that need to be done in order to be considered for euthanasia. My memory may be slightly off and it would vary per area, but in addition to having a terminal illness, several doctors are involved, the client is given a certain amount of time left to live, the client must be functional and aware of what they are asking (in other words, someone cannot decide their euthanize their elderly aunt because they decide they are tired of her or whatever), several written requests must be made, etc etc. I think it’s a wonderful option. However, I do agree that it gets a little mucky when mental illness (or as someone I enjoy calls it, “brain illness”) is involved. I hope we can make big technological steps in order to be able to see mental illness like we see cancer. <3 Also, you are a loving mother. I don't think parents get over the death of a child. Hugs.

  • JS

    I think it would be interesting to have an interview with Brittany Maynard. I think about her and how courageous she was about her decision to utilize Dying With Dignity.

  • Patrick

    The challenge is not just establishing “good” enough criteria, but resisting changes later. Once underway, how can a slippery slope be avoided? (Nazis rationalized murder, teaching extermination as good.) Who could say it’s gone too far then stop it?

  • M&M

    Lots of hugs. I don’t think we ever get over such deep tragedies but you have adapted so well, as best as anyone could expect. I sometimes wonder if we never completely heal because it makes us feel closer to that which we lost.

    • Good thought. I know I’ll never completely heal. I’ve just settled into a new normal.

  • Georgia95Luciana Todesco

    Thanks again for a great interview. Yes, Erik and my daughter ‘euthanased’ themselves. Why don’t euthanasia proponents call it what it is, which is ‘suicide’? Is it because they don’t want their deaths to be tainted with that term? Is it because of the stigma associated with suicide? Maybe it’s the stigma we need to deal with and then we wouldn’t need ‘euthanasia’ legislation.
    And once you do legislate for euthanasia, it cannot be just for certain physical illnesses; it has to be for EVERYTHING. Because who is to say that a physical illness is more deserving of being state-sanctioned than a mental illness?
    On the other hand, state-sanctioned suicide–ie euthanasia–would require much thought and much input from outside sources. People with a mental illness would be required to get permission from doctors, who (I hope) would ensure that they have exhausted ALL possibilities such as medication, therapy, ECT. It would get parents involved. Had my daughter applied to be euthanased, we could have got her the help that she needed. I keep going through all the things I should have seen and could have done, but it’s too late. She keeps telling me that it was her ‘time to go’ and that there was nothing anybody could have done.

  • Nancy Antia

    Hi Elisa, this is a great post. Thank you! Please tell me: what is ketamine infusion? Does it have another name? I’m going to ask if we can get it here in Argentina.

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