This week's story is one that I and many other readers found deeply affecting. It goes to the heart of one of the big ethical debates in social care. Sophie was inspired to write the story following a personal family experience. It's a much appreciated contribution to the Change the Ending collection.
I Want To Go Now
The carer, slumped in snooze mode in the corner of the room, started at the dying woman’s words. Martha had been drifting in and out of consciousness and had not spoken for several hours, but the voice was strong and clear. The carer moved soundlessly through the gloom to the bedside, making a quick visual assessment of the patient. The nurses were not due for several hours.
Although her chest rose and fell with rasping breaths, Martha’s eyes were closed and her weathered face remained motionless. The frame of ivory hair fanning across the floral pillow was unusually long and luxuriant for a woman of her age; the carer had delicately combed it for her earlier in the evening, having registered how much it meant to her to look her best. A picture above the bed showed a regal bride with a shy smile, her swarthy, angular husband standing stiffly at her side.
“Martha?” A definite response. “I’m sorry, but before we go on, I need to ask you some questions. Are you saying that you want to end your life?”
As the carer followed the required script, voicing the old lady’s repeated affirmations, Martha’s daughter leaned in to kiss her mother on the forehead. She softly squeezed the papery hand, forcing down the emotion rising in her core, willing herself to keep it together as the carer confirmed the safe word and gently explained what would happen next.
“I love you, Mum. I’m so proud of you.”
The drugs began to drip through the tube.
“She can hear you,” said the carer. “She loves you and she wants you to know that she is sure.”
A few minutes later, the drugs machine gave a final click.
The carer scanned the bedroom before turning to Martha’s daughter.
“Please take as much time as you need. I’ll let the relevant people know and they’ll be in touch. Can I get you anything?”
Martha’s daughter shook her head. “Thank you.”
She pressed the button. The carer whirred as it powered down.
Sophie Payne is Head of Communications at Buckinghamshire County Council.