My grandma died today.
It was not unexpected. Her decay had been going for years, brain and body slowly doing into a permanent dysfunction. A few months ago she began to stay in her bed all day, sleeping most of the time. Then she fell out of her bed. The assistance called for an ambulance to take her to hospital because she had pains. And there she remained for a little less as a month before she died, as a comatose, without dignity; the last thing she wanted.
We don’t have euthanasia in Sweden, and I deeply wish we had.
Yes, she could have stopped eating on her own and shortened her life by herself. That is common, though no statistics are made; just an active respect for their wish. It is however a rather slow process to die that way, even if you are old and fragile. My grandma kept eating; little, yes, but enough to keep the machinery running. Maybe she could not stand the idea of going hungry. Maybe she thought that it was not her decision to make.
At the hospital she sometimes was present enough to express she was hungry and ask for food. They have no right to deny her and no rights to suppress her hunger by medication, since this would be an active action to help her die.
My grandma cried because she was still alive and all they could do at the hospital was to give her morphine for her pains and turn her over every sixth hour to prevent bedsore.
To do anything else would be considered as murder in the eyes of the Swedish law.
I remember a sad story with two parents and a newborn child with severe brain damage in respirator. When all hope was lost they decided to shut down the respirator. They sat with their child in their arms for hours and hours listening to the little baby’s fight to breathe, before she finally passed away. Afterwards the doctor was charged for murder because a too high dose of some medicine was found in the girl’s body; a dose that would have killed her. She was freed, because it could not be proven that the test made was adequate nor that the she had given the baby an injection with it. Not because shortening a dying baby’s life with a few hours could be considered an act of mercy, and not a crime.
There is no dignity in dying. There never is. It is the total and final loss of all control. But you can make the best of it. And you can make it bearable for those around. After all, they are the ones who have to live with the memory.
Grandma, I love you. I remember your voice reading me bedtime stories when I stayed at your place over the night. That is the memory I want to keep in my heart forever.
Photo belongs to the writer