Wednesday, October 27

One last wish

Most of what has made life worth living disappears for me, writes Ragnhild Nyhus.

If I had had the strength, I would have traveled to Switzerland and ended my life there.

This is a chronicle. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.

It is summer and nature is at its best. From my window I see lush deciduous trees and summer flowers in shades of yellow, blue, red and white. I take a look at the fjord with a lively boat life. Last year I was part of this world. I wish I had stayed that way. But life rarely goes exactly as I wanted and planned, and now most of this world is inaccessible to me.

Leg failed

Until I turned 70, I was fit and active, I had a good life, so I thought it would continue for many years. But one day on a trip with a group of friends, one leg started to fail and my regular yoga exercises became more difficult to perform. The neurologists found nothing wrong, but the problems grew. After many searches on the Internet, I had a growing suspicion that ALS disease was the cause. After more neurological exams, I unfortunately received confirmation of the diagnosis.

Since then, little by little I got used to the body failing more. Lately, the decomposition has started to accelerate. I am losing more and more features that I, like most others, have taken for granted.

I can not walk. Hands are about to become useless. It is exhausting to breathe and I spend much of the day coughing up mucus. Soon I will no longer be able to speak, eat or drink. The only thing that works as before is the head. But most of what has made life worth living disappears for me.

Fear of impotence

I appreciate the good follow-up and support from the Norwegian health service, family and friends and, above all, a loving husband. It has made time so far livable and meaningful.

It is not death that I fear, but powerlessness and total dependence on others. These prospects are bleak and cast a shadow over my remaining time.

From time to time, the debate about euthanasia or euthanasia comes up in Norway. It often arises when someone or their family members are affected by a serious and life-threatening illness. A problem is only real when it is literally felt in the body.

Several countries in the world are gradually allowing some form of active euthanasia. Switzerland, New Zealand and the Benelux countries provide such an opportunity. The Netherlands has had such a plan since 2002, and 90 percent of health professionals support it.

Many US states can also get medical assistance in dying, and several countries are receiving similar schemes. A 2019 survey shows that 3 out of 4 people in Norway support assisted euthanasia, even though a large majority of healthcare professionals are still against it.

It is not death that I fear, but helplessness and total dependence on others, writes Ragnhild Nyhus.

Loss of dignity

Former Minister of Family Affairs Kjell Ingolf Ropstad did not want a new investigation of the case. “We must make sure that the elderly do not feel pain,” he said. Of course, a good goal, but in practice impossible to achieve. More than 90 percent of those who want active euthanasia do not justify it with much pain, but with a loss of independence, quality of life and dignity. I’ve been in the hospice department myself. Despite the warm hands and good help, it only strengthens my wish to die before I become even more helpless and in need of attention.

Had active euthanasia been allowed in this country, the knowledge that, when the time came, I could get help to end my life in a peaceful and dignified way, it would have made my last time that much easier and less anxious. Then, by my own request, I would leave the last sufferings behind and could say goodbye to life and my loved ones in a dignified and good way.

If I had had the strength, I would have traveled to Switzerland and ended my life there, as many Norwegians have already done. But I and many with me do not have those powers. For many, it is also an economic problem. As the situation is now, I have to find a way to end my life myself, without any help, while I can still do it myself, and before I really would have wanted it differently.

Ragnhils Nyhus from a previous interview with Aftenposten in 2019.

By law

Several doctors argue that the doctor’s oath gets in the way of active euthanasia. But in an article in the Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association of July 21, 2018, the conclusion is the opposite. Rather, one runs the risk of not acting on this promise by refusing such help in all circumstances, especially in patients who suffer, die, and make decisions that want to end their lives on their own terms.

The right of women to decide about their own bodies in relation to abortion is often discussed. Why shouldn’t dying people for whom there is no hope also have the right to decide about their own death when life is still over and the last time only leads to more suffering? But no matter how strong the desire is, terminally ill people in Norway today don’t have such an opportunity.

It takes time to pass a new law. For me, it will be too late anyway. I still hope such a discussion can benefit others. For everyone who writes on this, there are many who do not have the benefits to participate in this debate. Most people want to live, myself included, but not at any price. When the body does not function at all, death can be experienced as a release.

Animals that suffer are helped to die. People don’t get that help, no matter how much they want it.

An unreasonable wish?

Animals that suffer are helped to die. People don’t get that help, no matter how much they want it.

Why can’t full-fledged people be allowed to make that choice? My last wish is to get help to finish with dignity with my loved ones around me. Is this really unreasonable?

Euthanasia is a complex discussion and I understand that it involves many ethical dilemmas. But that politicians are not even willing to investigate this, I think it is undemocratic and incomprehensible. Allowing euthanasia, which the majority of the Norwegian population is now in favor of, will be, in my opinion, a merciful and humane reform.

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