Coming to the End

The comments about the Iron Lady have been about whether the emphasis on her dementia was justifiable, dignified …. On reflection, I think that it was not. It didn’t tell us anything much about dementia and it served mainly as a rather crude vehicle for the flash-backs to her glory days.

Like most clergy, I have spent more time than I would care to measure with people in this state. The thing that I found most profoundly saddening was the fact that it doesn’t seem to be a constant/steady state. Time of blankness are intermingled with times when the person is clearly aware that all is not well but can’t quite work it out.

Meanwhile the debate about assisted dying moves on. I think that the thing that surprises me most about this debate is the fact that the insights and learning from the hospice movement seem to have almost entirely passed out of sight. Yet one of the significant changes in hospital care during my time as a hospital chaplain was the extent to which those insights began to become mainstream – there was a maturing which meant that doctors began to recognise that heroic medical intervention was not always the best. During all of that time, I remember only one person who was clearly asking for help to be allowed to die. Palliative care became a recognised specialism. Yet sadly I remember that when members of my own family needed that care, I found that I had to ask very directly for what I thought was reasonable and appropriate.