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Dying & Death Talk

Looking at dying and death for what it is: a part of life.

Kids Meet a Terminally Ill Person

Courtesy of HiHo Kids | Posted 10. 18. 2018

 

Vodka, folk rock and secobarbital: Terminally ill man chooses his last day

Courtesy of CNN.com | By 

In the end, it wasn’t easy for Aaron McQ to decide when to die.

The 50-year-old Seattle man — a former world traveler, triathlete and cyclist — learned he had leukemia five years ago, followed by an even grimmer diagnosis in 2016: a rare form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

An interior and urban designer who legally changed his given name, McQ had been in pain and physical decline for years. Then the disease threatened to shut down his ability to swallow and breathe.

“It’s like waking up every morning in quicksand,” McQ said. “It’s terrifying.”
Last fall, McQ decided to use Washington state’s 2009 Death With Dignity law to end his suffering. The practice, approved in seven states and the District of Columbia, allows people with a projected six months or less to live to obtain lethal drugs to end their lives.
Although the option was legal, actually carrying it out was difficult for McQ, who agreed to discuss his deliberations with Kaiser Health News. He said he hoped to shed light on an often secretive and misunderstood practice.

“How does anyone get their head around dying?” he said, sitting in a wheelchair in his Seattle apartment in late January.

Aaron McQ battled leukemia and a rare form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, for five years.
Aaron McQ battled leukemia and a rare form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, for five years.
California’s End of Life Option Act, which took effect in 2016, was suspended for three weeks this spring after a court challenge, leaving hundreds of dying patients briefly in limbo.
Thin and wan, with silver hair and piercing blue eyes, McQ still could have passed for the photographer’s model he once was. But McQ’s legs shook involuntarily beneath his dark jeans and his voice was hoarse with pain during a three-hour effort to tell his story.
Last November, doctors told McQ he had six months or less to live. The choice, he said, became not death over a healthy life, but a “certain outcome” now over a prolonged, painful — and “unknowable” — end.
“I’m not wanting to die,” he said. “I’m very much alive, yet I’m suffering. And I would rather have it not be a surprise.”
In late December, a friend picked up a prescription for 100 tablets of the powerful sedative secobarbital. For weeks, the bottle holding the lethal dose sat on a shelf in his kitchen.
“I was not relaxed or confident until I had it in my cupboard,” McQ said.
At the time, he intended to take the drug in late February. Or maybe mid-March. He had wanted to get past Christmas, so he didn’t ruin anyone’s holiday. Then his sister and her family came for a visit. Then there was a friend’s birthday and another friend’s wedding.
“No one is ever really ready to die,” McQ said. “There will always be a reason not to.”
Aaron McQ's prescription bottle of secobarbital sodium.
Aaron McQ’s prescription bottle of secobarbital sodium.
Many people who opt for medical aid-in-dying are so sick that they take the drugs as soon as they can, impatiently enduring state-mandated waiting periods to obtain the prescriptions.
Data from Oregon show that the median time from first request to death is 48 days, or about seven weeks. But it has ranged from two weeks to more than 2.7 years, records show.
Neurodegenerative diseases like ALS are particularly difficult, said Dr. Lonny Shavelson, a Berkeley, Calif., physician who has supervised nearly 90 aid-in-dying deaths in that state and advised more than 600 patients since 2016.
“It’s a very complicated decision week to week,” he said. “How do you decide? When do you decide? We don’t let them make that decision alone.”
Philosophically, McQ had been a supporter of aid-in-dying for years. He was the final caregiver for his grandmother, Milly, who he said begged for death to end pain at the end of her life.
By late spring, McQ’s own struggle was worse, said Karen Robinson, McQ’s health care proxy and friend of two decades. He was admitted to home hospice care, but continued to decline. When a nurse recommended that McQ transfer to a hospice facility to control his growing pain, he decided he’d rather die at home.
Aaron McQ and Karen Robinson go boating on Seattle's Portage Bay in 2013, before he fell ill.
Aaron McQ and Karen Robinson go boating on Seattle’s Portage Bay in 2013, before he fell ill.
“There was part of him that was hoping there were some other alternative,” Robinson said.
McQ considered several dates — and then changed his mind, partly because of the pressure that such a choice imposed.
“I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t want to feel like, now you gotta,” he said.
Along with the pain, the risk of losing the physical ability to administer the medication himself, a legal requirement, was growing.
“I talked with him about losing his window of opportunity,” said Gretchen DeRoche, a volunteer with the group End of Life Washington, who said she has supervised hundreds of aid-in-dying deaths.
Finally, McQ chose the day: April 10. Robinson came over early in the afternoon, as she had often done, to drink coffee and talk — but not about his impending death.
“There was a part of him that didn’t want it to be like this is the day,” she said.
DeRoche arrived exactly at 5:30 p.m., per McQ’s instructions. At 6 p.m., McQ took anti-nausea medication. Because the lethal drugs are so bitter, there is some chance patients won’t keep them down.
Four close friends gathered, along with Robinson. They sorted through McQ’s CDs, trying to find appropriate music.
“He put on Marianne Faithfull. She’s amazing, but, it was too much,” Robinson said. “Then he put on James Taylor for, like, 15 seconds. It was ‘You’ve Got a Friend.’ I vetoed that. I said, ‘Aaron, you cannot do that if you want us to hold it together.'”
DeRoche went into a bedroom to open the 100 capsules of 100-milligram secobarbital, one at a time, a tedious process. Then she mixed the drug with coconut water and some vodka.
Just then, McQ started to cry, DeRoche said. “I think he was just kind of mourning the loss of the life he had expected to live.”
After that, he said he was ready. McQ asked everyone but DeRoche to leave the room. She told him he could still change his mind.
“I said, as I do to everyone: ‘If you take this medication, you’re going to go to sleep and you are not going to wake up,'” she recalled.
McQ drank half the drug mixture, paused and drank water. Then he swallowed the rest.
His friends returned, but remained silent.
“They just all gathered around him, each one touching him,” DeRoche said. Very quickly, just before 7:30 p.m., it was over.
“It was just like one fluid motion,” DeRoche said. “He drank the medication, he went to sleep and he died in six minutes. I think we were all a little surprised he was gone that fast.”
The friends stayed until a funeral home worker arrived.

DYING TO KNOW? This is what happens in the 30 seconds before you die… and whether your life really flashes before your eyes

Courtesy TheSun.com | By Josie Griffiths and news.com.au | Photos by Getty | Originally Posted 03.17.2017 | Posted 10.13.2018

Neurologist Dr. Cameron Shaw dissected a woman’s brain to solve the scary mystery

WE’RE told to expect a white light, or that your life will flash before your eyes.

But the truth is we’ve never known what happens right before we die. Until now.

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Neurologist Dr Cameron Shaw dissected a woman’s brain to see what happens in the 30 seconds before you die

 

A leading scientist thinks he’s solved the terrifying mystery of dying, and says he can tell us exactly what happens in the 30 seconds before you pass away.

Neurologist Dr Cameron Shaw dissected a woman’s brain, along with VICE magazine, to find out what happened immediately before she died.

Here’s what he found… Continue reading “DYING TO KNOW? This is what happens in the 30 seconds before you die… and whether your life really flashes before your eyes”

What Good Is Thinking About Death?

Courtesy of TheAtlantic.com | By Julie Beck | Photo by Benjamin Vander Sheen/Flickr | Originally Published 05.28.2015 | Posted 10.09.2018

 

We’re all going to die and we all know it. This can be both a burden and a blessing.

In the heart of every parent lives the tightly coiled nightmare that his child will die. It might spring at logical times—when a toddler runs into the street, say—or it might sneak up in quieter moments. The fear is a helpful evolutionary motivation for parents to protect their children, but it’s haunting nonetheless.

The ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus advised parents to indulge that fear. “What harm is it, just when you are kissing your little child, to say: Tomorrow you will die?” he wrote in his Discourses.

Some might say Epictetus was an asshole. William Irvine thinks he was on to something.

“The Stoics had the insight that the prospect of death can actually make our lives much happier than they would otherwise be,” he says. “You’re supposed to allow yourself to have a flickering thought that someday you’re going to die, and someday the people you love are going to die. I’ve tried it, and it’s incredibly powerful. Well, I am a 21st-century practicing Stoic.” Continue reading “What Good Is Thinking About Death?”

YOUR FUNERAL. Let’s Plan It. WHY? So your loved ones won’t be arguing over what they think you would want.

Plus It’s FREE!!

We fear death, but what if dying isn’t as bad as we think?

Courtesy of TheGuardian.com | By Jessica Brown |Photo by Alamy/Stock Photo | Originally Posted 07.27.2017 | Posted 10.05.2018

 

Research comparing perceptions of death with accounts of those imminently facing it suggest that maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about our own end

“The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else,” wrote Earnest Becker in his book, The Denial of Death. It’s a fear strong enough to compel us to force kale down our throats, run sweatily on a treadmill at 7am on a Monday morning, and show our genitals to a stranger with cold hands and a white coat if we feel something’s a little off.

But our impending end isn’t just a benevolent supplier of healthy behaviours. Researchers have found death can determine our prejudices, whether we give to charity or wear sun cream, our desire to be famous, what type of leader we vote for, how we name our children and even how we feel about breastfeeding.

And, of course, it terrifies us. Death anxiety appears to be at the core of several mental health disorders, including health anxiety, panic disorder and depressive disorders. And we’re too scared to talk about it. A ComRes surveyfrom 2014 found that eight in ten Brits are uncomfortable talking about death, and only a third have written a will. Continue reading “We fear death, but what if dying isn’t as bad as we think?”

Watching Your Parent Die Is Absolute Hell

Courtesy of Scary Mommy.com | Posted 10.02.2018

My dad was dying long before we received the devastating news on a cold winter morning. After suffering a minor stroke, my father’s stage 4 cancer was discovered quite by accident while he had follow-up tests to prevent further strokes. As my father relayed the news to me, I gripped the phone and tried to comprehend what he was saying. His cancer was advanced, and suddenly, his time on Earth was finite.

His battle was over before it started.

At his advanced cancer stage, chemotherapy options were limited and surgery wasn’t an option. Radiation wasn’t going to thwart the progression, and when we looked at the hard evidence, it was clear that his quality of life was going to suffer a great deal if he put himself through the rigors of a chemotherapy regimen that had little to no chance of prolonging his life. Continue reading “Watching Your Parent Die Is Absolute Hell”

Do Animals Experience Grief?

Courtesy of The Conversation.com | Published 08.24.2018 | Posted 09.27.2018
Lisa’s note: This 15 second recording is of my dog Bella howling over, what I presume is, the lost of her brother, Argyris. It pierces my soul and I hurt because I can’t help her with her hurt.
 

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A growing body of evidence points to how animals are aware of death and will sometimes mourn for or ritualize their dead.

For many weeks, news of a mother orca carrying her dead infant through the icy waters of the Salish Sea captured the attention of many around the world. Keeping the infant afloat as best she could, the orca, named Tahlequah, also known as J35 by scientists, persisted for 17 days, before finally dropping the dead calf.

This has been one of the most protracted displays of marine mammal grieving.

Among scientists, however, there remains a prejudice against the idea that animals feel “real” grief or respond in complex ways to death. Following reports of the “grieving,” zoologist Jules Howard, for example, wrote, “If you believe J35 was displaying evidence of mourning or grief, you are making a case that rests on faith, not on scientific endeavor.”

As a bioethicist, I’ve been studying the interplay between science and ethics for more than two decades. A growing body of scientific evidence supports the idea that nonhuman animals are aware of death, can experience grief and will sometimes mourn for or ritualize their dead.

You can’t see when you don’t look

Animal grief skeptics are correct about one thing: Scientists don’t know all that much about death-related behaviors such as grief in nonhuman animals. Only a few scholars have explored how the multitude of creatures with whom humans share the planet think and feel about deatheither their own or others’.

Continue reading “Do Animals Experience Grief?”

While visiting my dying stepmother, I discovered her children had looted my father’s estate

Courtesy of MarketWatch.com | By Quentin Fottell | Published 08.04.2018 | Posted 09.24.2018

‘A word of warning to your readers: Don’t trust anyone’

 

Dear Moneyist,

My father passed in 2001. He married his wife in 1971 when I was 14. I have two blood siblings, and my step-mother had one daughter; they are very close. My stepmother is now 91 and in failing health. My wife and I traveled 1,000 miles to stay with her during her recovery from pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease last week. We have always gotten along well together and, over the years, my siblings have been very nice to her.

‘I realized I was looking at the looting of my dad’s estate—and all the money had been drained by my step-sister and her husband.’

Before my dad passed, we had a frank and clear discussion about his estate. He had worked and invested and had more than $1 million in his estate, which he clearly stated to me was to be split four equal ways upon the death of his wife. She was also provided for by his company’s life insurance policy, and the $600,000 from the sale of his Southern California home.

During our visit, she offered to have us stay in her home. I was going through the old picture albums, and taking some cell phone camera shots of my kids. There weren’t a lot, mostly of her daughter.

One of the picture albums had financial documents in it, and I soon realized I was looking at the looting of my dad’s estate—and all the money had been drained by my step-sister and her husband.

I’d like to say I was shocked, but really it was almost a validation. My stepsister’s husband has been on disability for 18 years. Each year, their whole family of 6 takes at least 2 cruises. They drive new cars, and there was plenty of money for my stepsister to buy a business for her son.

I didn’t see the will when my dad died, but somehow he left it so that in certain circumstance, if his wife’s income fell to a certain level, they were able to access my dad’s estate principle. In 2009, my stepsister and her husband took out a $750,000 single-premium life insurance on my stepmom.

Continue reading “While visiting my dying stepmother, I discovered her children had looted my father’s estate”

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