There has to be dignity in death

Charles Cowling


Lynne Watson, a celebrant, has brought to our attention a powerful and poignant article in the Daily Mail. Thank you, Lynne. 

It’s about a doctor, Kate Granger, who is 29 and dying of cancer, has said no to any more chemotherapy. Here are some extracts to give you a taste: 

As a doctor, I am very realistic about what treatments can achieve. I am not hunting for a miracle cure, because I don’t think that will happen for me.

I’ve seen a lot of needless suffering, severely ill people flogging their bodies to death with different treatments or more chemo in pursuit of something that is never going to happen — possibly just to please their families. 

This has crystallised for me what I want for myself: a dignified and peaceful death. I hate all the emotive language used around cancer. It’s always a ‘battle’ and sufferers are always ‘brave’ — words for wars. But when people like me decide not to prolong life, does that mean I am not strong or fighting to stay alive?

As well as not wanting to prolong a poor quality of life for myself with brutal cancer treatments, I made it clear from the earliest days of my illness that there is no way I want to be resuscitated. And there has to be dignity in death. I have led crash teams, done chest compression, seen hundreds of people being resuscitated. It is not like Casualty on TV — it’s brutal, undignified, a horrible process.

Dr Granger’s husband Chris is finding it very difficult to accept what is happening to her: 

I don’t know how to help him. Chris can’t accept that the situation is way beyond our control. He struggles with my matter-of-fact attitude and gets upset at the smallest of comments. I am perhaps not as sympathetic as I should be, always telling him: ‘Pull yourself together, darling.’ When he is upset he talks about what life will be like without me and how he won’t be able to cope. This is very difficult to listen to, and is a source of great annoyance for me. I need him to be strong so he can shore me up.

Read the whole piece over at the Mail here


6 thoughts on “There has to be dignity in death

  1. Charles Cowling
    Ru Callender

    Bloody hell Quokkagirl, that’s harsh. The poor bloke’s in his twenties. I think he is allowed to feel scared weepy and generally ripped apart.

    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling

      I think you’ve got a point, Ru; it’s no more brave of her to be denying him his fear than it is of him to be indulging in it, but haven’t these two got some talking to do if they want to make the best of what’s left, and leave him in a better place to move on from?

      You could just as well say he needs her to be strong and to shore her up, or that he’s the one who’ll have a lifetime of loss while she’s got it easy in comparison. But what the hell can we know about it?

      Charles Cowling
      1. Charles Cowling

        You’re right, Jonathan. We can never really speculate on each individual’s reaction to such a devastating prospect. From experience, when I’m asked to visit a family where one of its members has been given a limited amount of time to live, the request to make some definite plan often comes from the person his/herself. Generally, the people closest to that person find it very difficult to be present for that meeting or meetings, often choosing to absent themselves after a little while to make a cup and not coming back for two hours, if ever.

        To a certain degree, people given such a life sentence and actively choosing to put some arrangements in place seem to gain a feeling of temporary control over a world where the ground has disappeared from under them. From general observation, ‘onlookers’ to their personal story, however devoted and involved, seem to be cut utterly adrift in a world of uncertainty and grief, while the person his/herself is dealing with a very big certainty. I’m not sure which position is worse. And, as you say, who are we to judge their reactions? When faced with a life-threatening situation myself, I found I was not at all the person I thought I was.

        Charles Cowling
    2. Charles Cowling
      Kathryn Edwards

      Point of info: he’s 35.

      But the numbers don’t determine one’s response to fear and heartbreak. How painful that their styles do not seem well aligned.

      Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling

    I totally applaud Kate’s decision and would like to think that if I were in the same position, I would do likewise. At least that is the plan.

    The life-at-all-costs culture we currently have and the pressure that brings to the sick -almost compelling them to survive and ‘fight’ – is as pernicious as the diseases they are suffering from. To stop treatment and accept the facts seems today to suggest cowardice or failure. For what it’s worth, not in my book it doesn’t.

    I was also interested in the response from Kate’s husband who seems to have turned the whole focus onto himself. Instead of making the most of every day they have together it seems she is to spend her last days propping him up. Of course I don’t know the full facts and shouldn’t judge him – but from what I have read in the article, I want to say to him grow up, get some balls, and remember who it is who’s dying. Instead of grizzling and poor me-ing round your sick but very brave and sensible wife, try spending some good quality time together . Do your blubbing later – that’s the time to feel sorry for yourself.

    I like the cut of this girl’s jib and wish her a peaceful and comfortable end without guilt or pressure.

    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling
    Poppy Mardall

    So good to hear this coming from a doctor. Thanks Lynne!

    Charles Cowling

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