Part Two: Dying with dignity

Published: May. 15, 2018 at 5:46 PM EDT
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When it comes to the end of our lives, who gets the final say?

It's a tough question that's difficult to answer.

I sat down with residents of Dirigo Pines in Orono ahead of a presentation on Thursday about dying with dignity.

"There have been many times that I have felt that I have no longer wanted to be here, and I wish that I could see a doctor and he would agree to help me."

Anna Buck is clear on how she feels about having the option to end her life when she sees fit.

"Just sitting and waiting without any help for me to make an exit is very difficult."

“I respect her for her being able to have those thoughts, provided they are really well thought out, provided they are consistent over a period of time, it's not just, 'oh, I'm having a really bad day, let's pack it in,' provided that her family is comfortable with that. Death is inevitable, so let's let the plane land gently and have no crash landings,” says Judy Tredwell.

Judy Tredwell has been an educator for 50 years, an EMT for 35, and a hospice worker for two decades.

"Of those 20 years in hospice, I have done 17 years worth of bereavement work. It started off mostly with people who had lost a child because in 1999, I lost my son and only child to suicide."

She's had more than 50 patients in hospice and applauds the end-of-life care it provides for patients and families and the time it gives people to get things worked out before they say goodbye.

"Trying to resolve unresolved issues, and making the patient comfortable."

"Scattered. I come from so many directions,” says Emily Taylor.

As a pastor, she has found the benefit of hospice but is torn on death with dignity.

"I guess I support it but with great, great caution. And only when it's time anyway and combined with hospice experience."

"I am a biologist. I am not religious. Death to me is the end. The nice thing about feeling that way is I will never know I died,” says Charles Major.

Major says death should be a personal decision, and it's one that can be extremely hard for many.

"They may be religious, they may be looking forward to something beyond this. I have no judgement for those people. That's their privilege."

"I've already made the crucial decisions concerning my fate because I have an aneurysm. My circumstances are already set. The surgeon said I have 3 to 6 months in their estimation. So those decisions are done, and I live with them."

Even though it may not be easy, if nothing else, the residents and medical professionals urge families to talk to each other about the end.

"There is such a thing as a good death, though. There really is. And it really is quite beautiful. And it's nothing to be afraid of,” says Tredwell.

Both Dr. Gratwick and Dr. VanKirk will be speaking at the presentation on Thursday evening at Dirigo Pines in Orono.

It is open to the public, but organizers recommend calling ahead to reserve a seat.

That number is 866-3400.