A recent patient said she learned the meaning of the phrase, “death with dignity.” She said the Wings of Hope Hospice team cared for her with the love of God. Her case manager and bath aide had genuine concern in their voices in trying different methods to deal with her pain. Her social worker went above and beyond to build a support team for the patient. Our patient said, “The people from Wings of Hope couldn’t be replaced in 100 years because they have shown me incredible kindness, decency and respect in all the things they do for me. I now know the difference between dying and dying with dignity.”
This patient had been disrespected throughout her life. She had been violated first by her father, then step-father. She lived on big city streets for many years as a drug addict, criminal and prostitute. She had been robbed many times, stabbed twice and abused in her trade to the point she felt as useless as trash. She felt many in the hospitals turned their back on her once they found out about her addictions. She became suicidal because of her feeling of worthlessness. As a result of the contempt she had experienced, it meant a lot to her to be treated as valuable by the Wings of Hope staff.
I’m glad she didn’t take her own life. If she had ended it prematurely, she would have missed out on her final chapter – living and dying with a sense of worth.
The Death with Dignity (aka Medical Aid in Dying) movement is increasingly accepted in our culture. The intention of this movement is to help a person with a terminal disease avoid the indignity of suffering that they perceive is in store for them by ending their life pharmaceutically. I think, in contrast to this, that a person can experience dignity in dying a natural death, perhaps more dignity than they ever had before. Good hospice care can help a dying person understand that sense of dignity.
Author: Greg Carlson, Spiritual Care Coordinator for Wings of Hope Hospice
Photo by Craig Gardiner Photography