Charlie loved life, but not his death. He was 90 years old when he finally passed away on 11th October 2015, after 5 weeks in hospital. He was admitted for Acute congestive heart failure and hypoxia caused by 3 1/2 litres of fluid having collected on his lungs. In essence, he was dying when he was admitted, gasping for breath.
During his 5 weeks of hospitalization he had about 20 visits from his religious colleagues. They understood that his memory was so poor by this stage, probably caused by the prolonged hypoxia, that their visits were quickly forgotten by Charlie so they religiously kept coming back to see him to reassure him.
Whilst in hospital he decided 4 weeks prior to his passing that his life was complete and he knew that it was time to go. He had many reasons to justifiably come to that decision. As a diabetic who had had a quadruple coronary bypass 7 years previously he reckoned he had had a good innings. The consultants agreed that he was perfectly lucid and understood exactly what he wanted for himself as he repeatedly begged for a quick and painless means to depart this world. His Christian beliefs and committed life did not clash with his requests for a compassionate end. Although he appeared clinically depressed his life expectancy was deemed to be so short that anti-depressants would not have enough time to take effect.
Had he been allowed, he could have had a beautiful assisted death in hospital surrounded by his loving family, but the law prohibits this in the UK. Instead he had to endure the added complications of a hospital induced urinary infection caused by MRSA; constipation and delirium; an inability to express himself clearly due to the loss of the relevant words; cardiac pains; loss of dignity; the unpleasantness of intra venous Gentamycin treatment with subsequent loss of appetite; difficulty then inability to swallow; exhaustion caused by sitting out of bed; discomfort in his legs and body in general; a dental abscess; nausea; a terrifying death.
Such was his unnecessary drawn out suffering that I felt compelled to record the details in a digital book for all to download. It is called ‘10/11’ and co-authored by myself Ruth Eyre-Pugh and my father.
Having worked as a veterinary surgeon, I know how the correct use of drugs can ease the passage from life to death. The clinical signs are those of a general anaesthetic being administered with pain free loss of consciousness. As humans, there would be no need to fear death if it was explained what to expect, if we ultimately had the choice to take this route. With sufficient safeguards in place no one would be allowed to be coerced into taking this path against their wishes.
Previously Daddy never once discussed any wish for an assisted death; until he needed it, in those last prolonged weeks. Perhaps his experiences as a religious minister with dying people emphasized how things go rapidly downhill towards the end. A good friend of his who had throat cancer, had recently passed away after many unpleasant months. Dad frequently mentioned this to his doctors who thought dad was just grieving for his lost friend rather than hearing him in actual fact shouting, “Help me die!”