EUTHANASIA OF PAIN 50,000 Romanians die annually in pain, hit by incurable diseases. What do we do for them?

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How common it sounds to read obituaries with words like “passed away after a long and hard suffering”. Not surprising any more to find this in most announcements of persons departed too early before the age usually considered as average life expectancy (around 70 years).

About 50,000 Romanians die annually of incurable diseases. This is dramatic. But even more dramatic is the fact that almost all o them are in terrible suffering from the onset of the disease to the very end. It is dreadful how easily we got used to the fact most incurable diseases encompass a lot of inevitable suffering, when in fact things are so much different.

We got used to see the battle with cancer, for instance, as a purgatory. The patient is tortured by pain and dehumanized by physical suffering, while the relatives and close friends are emotionally and physically devastated.

In the developed countries the progress of the medical sciences is reflected in an increasing survival rate in battling “incurable” diseases, and patients are never abandoned when it seem that “nothing can be done any more”. The transition towards the inevitable end cannot be a pleasant experience, but it is so much different when the “commander” can actually enjoy the last months, weeks, days of life…

In Romania less than 5% of the population have heard about palliative care or hospice services that can help incurable patients and their families, as they struggle with the disease and its consequences. And, yes, the fact that only 5% of the population are aware of palliative care reflects about the same percentage of incurable patients actually receiving this type of care. All others patients are left alone. If the families can afford, they may get the appropriate medication to relieve suffering. Otherwise, they bear the sufferance “stoically”.

In fact the medication is just part of the support needed in such situations. Psychological and spiritual counselling (for relogious patients or those open to spiritual revelation) are of utmost importance. Otherwise, how could parents cope with the loss of their child? Or how could a parent die and leave behind a little child?

Living with this primitive approach crucially influences our spirit. No wonder that the number of people walking bowed and frowning in our streets is so much higher than in Western countries. Apart from our daily worries we all have in our family, our extended family or among our close friends, at least a person that passed away tortured by an incurable disease, “after a long and painful sufferance”.

With so much suffering around us, we could easily carry on our existence and become immune to the distress of those around us. But no, we cannot do this; we cannot just hide in our own shell and become autistic, pretending we do not see the sufferance of our fellow beings, without becoming ourselves dehumanized.

What (else) can we do?

We can face this challenge and imitate those who do SOMETHING.

In Romania there is no open debate yet on issues related to euthanasia and assisted suicide. Because those who should be a voice against this way of bringing an end to sufferance (and they are many, since the majority of the Romanian population is orthodox and Christian faith considers suicide as a fundamental sin) should be bound to contribute in some way to supporting the efforts of those actively involved in palliative care.

I doubt that the help offered to the incurable patients and their families would ever become a civic duty for us. But I do believe that we can start by supporting campaigns for hospice organizations and hopefully this will end up in legally involving the Ministry of Health to allocate a generous annual percentage for palliative care.

Select News opens a voluntary campaign to promote palliative care, under the motto of our present article, a motto that will accompany impressing interviews and reportages, brought up with the help of Hospice Casa Sperantei, the main and oldest charity providing palliative care in Romania since 1992. You will read amazing life stories, and if you still haven’t decided who to direct your 2% of the income tax to, we will provide you with consistent reasons to place those monies (amounts that you owe to the state anyway, so it does not mean you are giving anything “out of the pocket”) towards … euthanizing the pain.

For a start, I invite you to throw a glance at the last annual report of Hospice Casa Sperantei

This will give you a better idea of an alternative that some of you might just have found out about.

Among the topics of our next articles you will find a brief presentation of Cristian, one of the Hospice heroes, as introduced to me by Daniel Bujorean (Hospice PR): “Cristi is a young Hospice patient; he knew the hardships of life and witnessed a lot of suffering. Although he was diagnosed with a devastating disease (cystic fibrosis), his most challenging life experiences were not the medical ones: his mother was murdered, his grand-mother who was looking after him died and so he was left alone; but he never gave up. He is optimistic and enthusiastically speaks about his future. He is passionate about photography and volunteers himself for the charity that supports him. Next spring he is planning a photo exhibition to raise money for the Hospice”.

And below there is a short dialogue with Marius, a hospice patient interviewed by the famous ballet dancer Alina Cojocaru.

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