My patient ended her life at Dignitas to avoid a slow, undignified death

Her courage showed me assisted dying should be legal in the UK so the terminally ill can have some control

By Anonymous

I gained great insight into the courage and tenacity it takes to go to Dignitas.

Some years ago, while working as a district nurse at a GP practice, one of the receptionists came to tell me she had just taken a phone call from the son of a patient to say he had returned from the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. His mother, who had recently been diagnosed with a neurological condition that would kill her slowly, and with loss of dignity and independence, had taken her life there.

The reception staff were shocked. I was shocked. My team was shocked. I was dismayed that this lady, who I had known for a number of years, had to go to another country to receive the care she wanted and to die earlier than she should have.

The following day her GP asked me what Lily* had been up to over the past few days. You can tell from this perhaps that Lily was a lady who made demands on the surgery team. The GP was upset when I told her what had happened, and contacted Lily’s son.

I had known this lady for a number of years and looked after her husband when he returned from hospital after surgery. Lily would turn up at the surgery immaculately dressed and would not leave until she obtained what she thought would help him. I would sometimes receive a phone call from the surgery asking me to come back from my house calls to see her. I was not the only person at the surgery with whom she could be quite insistent. Yet even as she frustrated us all, I found it noble the way she fought for what she thought was best for her husband.

After he died I saw her only occasionally. A few years later her health deterioriated and I became involved in her care. Occasionally I found it frustrating when, in the middle of a clinic or housecall, I would be contacted to say Lily wanted to see or speak to me. Many a day on my way home I would have to call into her house to reassure her or deal with a problem.

After her diagnosis she was matter of fact as we discussed plans for her care and how to deal with her condition. She was living on her own and had no intention of “burdening” her children. Despite the fact that she could be difficult, I found her likeable with a very dry sense of humour and fun.

I found out later that before she died she had bought a new outfit to travel in, and been to a favourite view she and her husband used to visit and to a favourite restaurant.

The point of telling this story is that I gained great insight into the courage and tenacity it takes to go to Dignitas and that there should be a way of assisting someone who is of firm mind to take their own life in these circumstances. Perhaps if she had felt she would have had control of the situation in this country Lily would not have found it necessary to take her own life at all; certainly she would have had a longer life. I feel privileged to have known a very brave woman, even if she could drive me to distraction.

Complete Article HERE!

Let Me Die My Way

As a D.C. Council committee prepares to vote today on a death with dignity bill, a terminal patient urges passage.

By Mary Klein


I do not know how long I have to live. I have aggressive ovarian cancer that has spread throughout my body. I want to live, and I’m doing everything possible to continue living, including surgery that took 42 industrial strength staples to stitch me back together and chemotherapy that has life-threatening side effects and has caused nerve damage, which limits my ability to walk.

Despite these efforts, my cancer cannot be cured. It is terminal. Intolerable, constant pain is a real possibility I must confront.

When I have only a few months left to live, I would like the option to obtain medication that I alone could decide to take to peacefully leave this world. I might decide not to take it, but it would bring me great comfort to know that it is available.

The “Death with Dignity Act” would provide this option to me.

The D.C. Council’s Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to vote today on whether to approve this legislation for consideration by the full D.C. Council.

Some people fear that the bill would lead to abuses, but those fears have proved unfounded. Oregon and four other states with medical-aid-in-dying options, have not found any incidents of abuse.

The legislation only provides the option to a terminally ill person who has six months or less to live, who personally requests the medication from two doctors and is found to be of sound mind and is acting independently. The patient must take the medication herself, but is under no obligation to take it.

The qualification requirements in the bill, which is modeled after Oregon’s nearly 20-year-old death-with-dignity law, include verification of the patient’s diagnosis and mental competency by two physicians.

A terminally ill person should not have to endure needless suffering in her or his final days. I ask that my choice to have a peaceful death be respected in the same way as other medical decisions made privately with one’s doctor.

I urge the D.C. Health and Human Services Committee and the full Council to approve the Death with Dignity Act and Mayor Muriel Bowser to sign it into law, so terminally ill DC residents like me do not have to worry about dying in agony.

Complete Article HERE!

Three tips for supporting employees in tough times

By Amy Florian

Grief support in the workplace is becoming increasingly important.
Grief support in the workplace is becoming increasingly important.

Our workplace is aging. With about 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day in the U.S. and more seniors opting to stay employed, you are probably dealing with serious illness and deaths among employees and their families on a regular basis.

The desire for communication on a more personal level is especially strong in times of transition, crisis and death. So while employees may appreciate your skills in advising them on retirement options, they are now also looking for someone who “gets them” and knows how to support them in their grief.

It is becoming increasingly important to understand the basics of grief support in the workplace. Those who don’t know how to talk about grief may experience a loss of trust and confidence from their colleagues.

Just a few tips to help you:

Even if you have had a similar grief experience, do not say “I know how you feel” or “I understand just what you’re going through.” If you don’t want to alienate grieving colleagues, avoid telling them you know how they feel, because you are always wrong. Each person experiences grief uniquely, based on a host of factors, including their specific relationship with the person who died, their personality and style of grieving, their prior experience of loss, the strength of their support network and their culture.

Instead, use the phrase “How is it different?” For instance: “When my husband died, I felt like I was walking around in a fog for five months. Is it like that for you, or how is it different?” Or, “When my mom died, I kept picking up the phone to call her before I remembered there wouldn’t be an answer on the other side. Have you done that too, or how is it different for you?” In other words, you establish your expertise and yet allow for your colleague’s unique experience.

Avoid saying “Come by my office any time.” First, everyone says that, but few people actually mean that the grieving person can call or see them any time. More importantly, grieving people don’t have the energy and resilience to simply stop by and talk. It seems too risky and they are feeling too vulnerable to interrupt someone else’s normal day to ask for something.

Instead, every time you communicate with grieving colleagues, tell them the next time that you will contact them. “I’ll call you next Tuesday, just to check in on how it’s going and see if you have any questions.” That takes the weight entirely off their shoulders and positions you as one of the rare people who are there for them without them having to give it a second thought.

Implement these approaches to distinguish your workplace and build a more trusting relationship with your colleagues. Remember, when you effectively serve others in the toughest times of their lives, it’s good for them, good for you, and it just happens to also be very good for your workplace.

Complete Article HERE!

Support group helps children share the pain of loss


Kela Grooms, 10, who lost her mother to cancer, cries during a group activity with volunteer Julianne Lang
Kela Grooms, 10, who lost her mother to cancer, cries during a group activity with volunteer Julianne Lang

A small voice from the back of the room chimed in as the laughter and chatter quieted.

“I never really smile,” said Kela Grooms. “Even when I’m happy, I don’t really smile until I’m extremely happy.”

The other four young girls seated at the table were quiet, like they understood exactly what Kela, 10, meant.

They had laughed, and they felt OK just then, but sometimes they can feel so sad they can’t explain it. Sometimes they understand why — they’re mourning the loss of a parent or a sibling or grandparent. Sometimes the sadness comes unexpectedly and hangs over them like a heavy blanket.

Each of the children in this group has experienced a traumatic loss of a loved one — a family member usually, but sometimes a friend. Twice a month they meet in a small room at Good Grief of Northwest Ohio, a peer support group for children who have experienced the death of someone significant in their lives.

The nonprofit organization, funded through grants and donations, is headquartered in Holland in western Lucas County. The group has one full-time and three part-time employees. The rest of the staff, including those who run the peer groups, are volunteers. Good Grief serves about 30 families; about 25 children come for each session. There is no cost for families seeking services at Good Grief, and they’re allowed to stay as long as they feel necessary.

Dorothy Mockensturm, the managing director, said the average length of stay is about 11 months.

“It’s up to the families to decide when they feel like they’re done for now,” she said. “The door is always open. Different milestones in kids’ lives can change how things are going.”

On a recent Tuesday, Kela and the other four girls — making up “the middles” age group — started their meeting as they do every time they’re together.

Say your name and tell us who died.

Alena Burke, 9, who was new to the group that night, introduced herself. Her dad died, she said. So did her great-grandmother.

Bailey Clark, 9, said her sister died. On Bailey’s lap was a stuffed Pikachu toy. Her sister would have loved the Pikachu, she said.

Sophia Moran, 8, told the girls her twin brother died.

Caylen Crowl, 9, lost her father.

And Kela lost her mother.

“It’s not counseling. It’s not therapy. It’s a place where kids can come and spend two hours every other week and be with other kids who have also gone through the death of someone significant in their lives,” Ms. Mockensturm said. “Everyone here is going through the same thing.”

Beth Johnston, a three-year volunteer at Good Grief, pulled a stack of cards out of a small plastic bag. On each card was written a different emotion: depressed, frustrated, enraged. The girls played a game, acting out each of the emotions and guessing what each was. It was a way to get the girls to think about the different ways they feel and the emotions they experience.

“How many feel like they might be depressed?” Ms. Johnston said.

That started the girls going. It prompted Kela to say she doesn’t smile as much as she used to.

Kela’s mother, Kristine Grooms, died March 10, 2015, from adrenal cortical carcinoma, a rare form of cancer. She was 37.

“Why don’t you smile?” Ms. Johnston asked Kela. The other girls were quiet.

“It’s still, like, my mother is not here,” she said. “What am I supposed to do? I have a good time in band, but I still don’t smile about it. This is my mother’s saxophone, and I’m playing the exact instrument that she did. It still doesn’t make me smile until I realize if I get good at this, she’d be extremely proud of me.”

Ms. Johnston wanted to volunteer at Good Grief to “pay forward what I’ve learned,” she said. Her fiance died five years ago.

“I found out grief is upside down and sideways. You can be happy and miserable and scream out,” she said. She learned, after about a year of grieving, that she could be happy again, but in a different way.

“I know where they are and what they’re going through,” she said.

Deb Crowl founded Good Grief after her husband, John, died unexpectedly in March, 2014. He was 49.

She and her two daughters, Caylen and Chloe, 13, go to Good Grief. When the girls are in their peer meetings, Ms. Crowl is in one of her own.

Adults who bring children aren’t required to attend a group meeting, but Good Grief offers two: one for caregivers who are helping a child deal with grief and another for caregivers who are also navigating their own grief.

“I think that’s been really beneficial,” Ms. Crowl said. “It’s two-fold for us. We get things that help us as adults and as parents but also help us with our kids who are going through that process.”

Ms. Crowl, whose father died of lung cancer when she was 21, said the peer support has helped her deal with residual grief she never worked through as a young adult.

Sophia Moran, one of the young girls in the “middles” group, held in her hands two butterfly clips. The butterfly represents her twin, Rayden.

About 30 weeks into her pregnancy, Sophia’s mother, Julia Mortensen-Moran, learned her son, who had been so active, died in utero.

Mrs. Mortensen-Moran carried the babies until they were full term, delivering Rayden stillborn. Sophia and her mother attend Good Grief to understand better their feelings about Rayden’s death.

When Sophia started school, she was having a hard time making friends with siblings; they would ask her, “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

Technically, yes, but explaining and understanding death at such a young age is hard.

Through some Internet searches, Mrs. Mortensen-Moran found Good Grief and, that day, they started attending meetings.

“Immediately it was life changing,” she said. “She had a connection. It’s been great.”

Complete Article HERE!

Dying woman picks road trip over chemotherapy

By Annie Flury

Norma and her son Tim
Norma and her son Tim

When 90-year-old Norma Bauerschmidt was diagnosed with terminal cancer, her immediate instinct was to refuse treatment and instead find a more positive way to spend her final days.

So she embarked on the road trip of lifetime and unwittingly became an internet hit along the way, when the Facebook page about her travels started attracting more than 440,000 followers.

Ramie Liddle and her mother-in-law Norma Bauerschmidt
Ramie Liddle and her mother-in-law Norma Bauerschmidt

Mrs Bauerschmidt, from Michigan, spent just over a year on the road with her son Tim and his wife, Ramie Liddle, in their motor home, before her death last week.

They had traveled more than 13,000 miles (20,900km) and visited 34 states.

 The family travelled more than 13,000 miles in their motorhome
The family travelled more than 13,000 miles in their motorhome

The adventure began in July 2015, when, after a routine scan, Mrs Bauerschmidt’s doctors told her she had terminal cancer.

It was just two days after the death of her husband, Leo.

Her daughter-in-law said: “Tim and I had lived on the road for a couple of years, and when her husband passed we did what all families do and invited her to live with us.”

“She thought about it for about a minute-and-a-half and said, ‘Yes’. She was ready for an adventure.”


“One of the first things we did was buy a wheelchair for her, and that was her ticket to freedom,” said Ms Liddle.

“From that point, on we could go out and about on outings or do whatever she wanted.”

It was Ms Liddle’s idea to start the Facebook page Driving Miss Norma.

“It was just so my family would know where we were, but Norma was absolutely shocked when it took off,” she said.

Norma Bauerschmidt and her son Tim with a CBS camera crew
Norma Bauerschmidt and her son Tim with a CBS camera crew

Ms Liddle said they had travelled from place to place, staying anything from a day to a month depending on how they felt.

And as Mrs Bauerschmidt’s Facebook following had grown, they had started to get invitations to lots of events and gatherings – including an Atlanta Hawks basketball game and countless people’s homes for dinner in the evenings.

The family travelled across the country harvesting hazelnuts in Friday Harbour in Washington, taking part in the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, visiting Yellowstone National Park and touring the Massachusetts coast.

They took a trip underground to visit the Consolidated Gold Mine in Georgia and Mrs Bauerschmidt even managed to fulfil one of her lifetime ambitions when she took a ride in a hot air balloon in Florida.

“In the last year, we have seen the best of the best of the people in this country,” she said.

Life on the open road
Life on the open road


Ms Liddle said her mother-in-law had been a very humble woman with no grand needs, but she had had a very clear idea about what had been important to her.

“She had a very happy last year, and was a very simple woman who had never had any attention in her life,” she said.

“And that’s the beauty of this story – she was just herself.”

Complete Article HERE!

How To Tell The Difference Between Sadness, Grief, And Depression

By Amy Marturana

The emotions are closely connected, but there are key differences between them.


We all know what it’s like to feel sad. Sadness is a standard human emotion. It looks different for different people and in different situations, but we all experience it regularly, maybe some of us more vividly than others.

Robin Dee Post, Ph.D., a recently retired clinical psychologist with over 30 years of experience in private practice, tells SELF that sadness is actually a desirable and necessary emotion. “It’s an emotion we sometimes think about negatively and it actually is not, it’s a very adaptive feeling.” Being sad allows us to deal with painful experiences and loss. It can be cathartic and relieve tension. “It also aids in empathy for ourselves and what we’re going through, but it’s also an emotion that can help us access other people’s pain and suffering,” Post explains.

Sadness is also one feature of depression—they’re closely tied, but not exactly the same. Being sad is normal and healthy and will pass; depression has a negative impact on your life and needs to be addressed to get you back to a happy, healthy, functional place again.

If your sadness lasts more than two weeks and is accompanied by other warning signs, it may mean it’s more than just that.

“Mood disruption for two weeks or longer,” is one diagnostic criteria for depression, Post says. The key is whether or not that sadness is paired with other factors of depression—loss of energy, trouble concentrating or making decisions, difficulty sleeping, disruption in eating patterns, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or thoughts of self harm.

Depression is also marked by a loss of pleasure in life and activities that once made you happy.

Loss of interest in things that normally excited you, or the inability to find pleasure in any way outside of the thing that’s saddening you, is a red flag. “You could be sad but still feel pleasure about something,” Post notes. “Depression is a pervasive lack of pleasure in things you’re doing.” This can also manifest in social withdrawal.

There’s a fine line between grief and depression, but for those predisposed to depression, it can be a slippery slope.

Grief is a normal reaction to a tremendous loss. If you lost something or someone important, it’s expected for you to be stricken with grief for a long time—much longer than the two-week criterion for depression. And chances are, you won’t find too many thing exciting or interesting or pleasurable, depending on how you grieve and what stage you’re in. “We can’t just amuse somebody out of their grief,” Post says. Many people can and should turn to counseling in a time of loss—it’s a way to help you sort out how you’re feeling and learn the best way to cope.

If you think you might be depressed, you should seek counseling—which can be helpful even if you don’t come out with a clinical diagnosis.

If you’re grieving for a long time and it’s disrupting your life, or if you are struggling to cope with another type of sadness or stress and you’re noticing it’s affecting you physically (you’re not eating, losing weight, not sleeping or sleeping all the time), it’s a good idea to seek professional help. Meeting with a therapist can be useful for identifying coping strategies and working through complex emotions, whether you’re depressed or not. For some people, grief and sadness can segue into major depression. “Depression comes with a biological vulnerability, so not everybody who is sad or grief-stricken will morph into depression,” Post notes. For those who do, it tends to be recurrent, “so it will happen more than one time.” If you know you’re prone to depression and have been treated for it in the past, don’t wait until things spiral. Talk to a mental health professional when you are deeply sad or consumed by grief to keep yourself afloat during the most emotionally challenging times.

Complete Article HERE!

Understanding Muslim funeral practices

By Susan Shelly

Elsayed "Steve" Elmarzouky walks through the area dedicated to Muslims in Laureldale Cemetery.
Elsayed “Steve” Elmarzouky walks through the area dedicated to Muslims in Laureldale Cemetery.

Most people know little about the religious practices of those of other faiths.

Lacking interest, opportunity or sometimes both, we miss out on the significance and beauty of the rituals and ceremonies others use to acknowledge birth, coming of age, marriage, the process of aging and death.Muslims, of which there are about 250 families living in Berks County, have certain beliefs and observe certain practices when a member of their community dies.

Iman Anwar Muhaimin, who travels from Philadelphia to lead prayers at the Islamic Center of Reading each Friday afternoon, along with Elsayad “Steve” Elmarzouky, a Berks County Muslim leader, shared some information about Muslim funeral practices and beliefs regarding death and the afterlife.Understanding that, as with most religions, customs will vary depending on cultural differences, they described what typically occurs after the death of a faithful Muslim.

Preparing a body for burial

When an observant Muslim dies, the body normally is taken to a funeral home to be washed and prepared for burial. Locally, Elmarzouky said, bodies are taken to one of the locations of Bean Funeral Home and Crematory.

Family members or members of the mosque who are trained in the ritual washing of the dead perform that task. Men wash men, and women wash women.Muslims do not cremate the deceased, Muhaimin explained, because they believe that the body should be returned to God in the same state in which it was given.”God gives me the body, so I need to give it back to him,” Muhaimin said. “The idea is that the body is God’s gift to you, so you should give it back to God.”If cremation is necessary due to financial or other circumstances, however, it is permissible.”When we have to do something out of necessity, God understands,” Muhaimin said.

The burial of a Muslim

Once the body is prepared for burial, it is taken in a simple casket to the mosque, where believers can pray over it. A special prayer, called Salatul Janazah, is performed, and the body is taken to the cemetery for burial.

Muslims normally are buried with other Muslims. In Berks County they do not have a cemetery designated exclusively to members of their faith, but use a designated section of Laureldale Cemetery.In cemeteries where caskets are not required for burial, a faithful Muslim would be buried in a simple, white wrapping, Muhaimin explained.”We want to be as close to the way we came into the world as possible,” he said.Believers are called to put the body of a loved one in the ground with their own hands, so shovels often are available at the cemetery.Before the body is placed in the ground there are more prayers, mostly supplications on behalf of the deceased, Elmarzouky explained.”We ask God to forgive sins and grant a happy afterlife,” he said.When the body is placed in the ground, it is positioned so the face is looking to the East, the same direction in which Muslims face while reciting daily prayers.Usually, a Muslim is buried on the same day as the death occurs, or at least within 24 hours of the death.That practice, explained Muhaimin, is so the soul, which has been released from the body, is not looking back.”Once the soul leaves, we no longer have the right to hold it back,” Muhaimin said.

Muslim belief in an afterlife

The span of human life is part of the journey of the soul, Muhaimin said, but not the soul’s home.

“The soul is just passing through when it’s on Earth,” he said. “The purpose of earthly life is to gain enlightenment. It is not the end.”Muslims believe in heaven and hell, and where a person will reside depends on several things, Elmarzouky explained.To arrive in heaven, the deceased must have performed good deeds while alive. His or her relationship with humanity will be examined. And, the fate of the deceased lies largely with the mercy of God.Like many Christians, Muslims believe there will be a day of judgment, during which the righteous are raised up to be with God and the wicked sent to hell.A person who has lived a godly life will be rewarded with heaven, Muhaimin said.”Believers and righteous people who have lived in spiritual covenant with God will be in heaven,” he assured.

Complete Article HERE!