This article is about the period prior to death when we’re on the downhill run.
Kenny Rogers was right when he sang that famous line in The Gambler – dying in your sleep is really is the best you can hope for.
I spent part of my working life working in hospitals and rarely did I see what I would call a peaceful death. Most were quite drawn out and/or traumatic for all involved; including hospital staff.
I can’t remember the exact figures, but the amount of money spent on our medical treatment tends to be more in the last few years of our life than for all of the previous.
Just as in death, there is a lot of money – and waste – in dying. Sometimes I wonder if some of the medical marvels we see that prolong life are really just exquisite and expensive torture designed to line the pockets of a few.
As our bodies wear out to the point of no return, so many resources can go into extending what can be a quite a miserable existence for weeks, months and even years. And to what end? Like a casino, the house always wins.
However, if people choose that extended exit, I respect that’s their choice.
But as someone trying to live a green life and who has perhaps even considered the environment in relation to what happens after you pass – is that something you want?
Environmental issues aside, the dying process can very understandably confuse loved ones. What might be an attempt to communicate “let the suffering end” can be misinterpreted as “I want to keep fighting” – and vice versa.
I’ve often heard people say they don’t want to end their lives tied to a machine or in 24/7 care. I said it myself hundreds of times – I’m terrified of that being my fate. But saying it isn’t enough. It has to be in writing. Furthermore, others need to know that document exists and a selected few should have a copy of it.
I’m in no great rush to leave this life, but when my number is up, I want it to be up. Some of the reasons are purely selfish, but I also don’t want to be helping to make faceless corporation richer by extending what is a spent life, I don’t want other people’s lives turned upside down for any longer than necessary and I don’t want the planet to be further pillaged for what is essentially nothing.
This is where the Advance Directive, or Living Will, comes into play.
It’s a set of what should be crystal-clear written instructions that a person gives detailing the actions that should or should not be taken if a person is no longer able to make decisions about their health.
A good example of an Advance Directive (called an Anticipatory Direction in my state) and explanatory notes, which I based mine on, can be found here. Please note: it’s important to use the right form and format for your own state or country, so you may need to do a little digging around on Google and it would be wise to also consult a local legal professional.