The report from 'Dying without dignity: Investigations by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman into complaints about end of life care' came out last week. Seven case accounts are given of people who met their death in ways that are not what they wanted. It is heart-breaking. But this is an important report: and the NHS needs to face the challenges it sets. There is only one chance to get it right. And it is more heart-breaking when it is communication – between professionals, patients and family, that is the fault-line.
...a nice way to set out the paradoxes facing the inaugural Thinking About Dying? research workshop hosted by Professor Gillian Howie at Liverpool University. Contributions from Buddhist and Hindu theology, from humanism, from philosophers and clinical psychologists sparked off debates about the medical modeling of death and physical crises. It was an Isak Dinesen quote that prompted us to look at how we make meaning of suffering, and even death:
“All human sorrows can be bourne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.”
Beverly Clack, Labour counsellor and professor at Oxford Brookes University pointed out that it might not be easy to tell these stories just now. The current culture in the UK and the US is aspirational, making us highly motivated to be a success. ‘Just do it!’ And success comes defined right down to the shape of our bellies, the logos on our clothes, the food we eat, our postcodes. It invades every aspect of our lives – we should have partners, good-looking partners, actually, and children. In fact the children need to be beautiful too, and successful themselves… etc etc. To miss out on any of these goods is seen as an aberration and, horrifyingly, failure.Read more
So reality is hitting in hard this week. Tosh O'Donnell is the amazing singer who keeps me entertained in the hospice with stories of growing up in Glasgow:
"See, we knew we were gaeing up in the world when we moved into a new place – it had an outside loo that LOCKED!"
And then made me weak at the knees with his amazing singing voice. His version of Strangers in the Night was my favourite, ever. But this week I was told he had died, suddenly and at home.Read more
This week I showed the final cut of the film I have been making with five women at the Maggie's Centre, Dundee. Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres are a charity that builds stunningly beautiful houses close to hospitals: places to go for well-being when you've been hit with the cancer diagnosis.
These women were brave and open and let me into their lives over the last ten months, sharing the messiness and fear, as well as their kindness and of course, their riotous sense of humour! Once the worst has happened, there is not much left to fear, time is short, and hey, life is for living!
It's a paradox – the film, through these women, looks death right in the face. So it is scary. But somehow, by going through the journey with them, you come out braver, less scared – it gives you courage. The film is with the fab composer Lennert Busch just now, and we will have a launch in April at Dundee Contemporary Arts, and then one in London. These women seem like front-runners to me. I feel I am slugging along behind them. They deserve medals – services to humanity. Order of generous.
This was shared by Claire Willocks on the Facebook page of THE EDGE OF DREAMING. It's an article by Ken Murray, a U.S. doctor, about how doctors, who are more familiar than most with the events and choices that precede hospital death, plan for their own deaths. Here's the opening paragraph...Read more