It distresses me to hear on the grapevine of how patients, who have chosen to have assisted dying, in other palliative care units have been treated by staff. Following the revelation of their wishes I have heard of staff treating the patient differently. Not wanting to engage with them anymore, giving them the ‘cold shoulder,’ because of the choice they have made. Some staff refuse to attend the patient even if they push the call button when they need help.
It’s called discrimination. Treating people differently because they are different. In these cases because they have chosen something the staff do not support. A difference of opinion leads to stigmatisation and a change in the mindset of the caregiver. This does not fit in with my own care philosophy. I will not abandon someone due to the choices they make not fitting with my own beliefs. I am in my role for the sake of the patient and their family. They are not there for the sake of my existence.
In order to be approved for assisted dying in Aotearoa New Zealand a person must have an estimated prognosis of less than six months. They are dying already, and are likely to be dead within six months. Dying people need to be respected regardless of what they believe in, the colour of their skin, the language they speak, their favourite food, the music they listen to. Whomever they are, at this stage of their lives, they are a dying human being who is not long for the world. A person whose time is running out.
Shunning a patient on my ward because of their choice of a legal treatment is not something I would do. I would find such an act to be too morally distressing to be considered. How would I feel if I was on the receiving end? What if it was one of my own family members? Put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine how it would feel to be abandoned and rejected. To be treated as someone less worthy because of the choices you have made. In health care we are supposed to care for people not to judge them.
Please treat dying people and their families with respect, regardless of the choices they make with what remains of their lives.