(photo credit: Wikicommons)
My name is Israel Kehat, I’m 46 years old and work with medical equipment for diagnosing lung cancer. My father, Yoel Kehat, passed away several months ago, after choosing not to prolong his life. This was a difficult decision, but few are willing to suffer, and few would wish suffering on their dear ones.
My father was a brilliant man, who worked with diverse technology at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for many years.
Sadly, soon after he turned 60 – very young, too young – he suffered a series of cerebrovascular accidents that left him with only partial function.
For a man like him, who had been active and creative all his life, this was terribly traumatic, and he never quite recovered.
Mom took care of him devotedly, but over the years and with the deterioration, we underwent the stages of help from a caregiver, and my father was finally transferred to a geriatric department. The family, as is so common today, coped, suffered, and sought every possible light and happiness.
When questions arose about life and death decisions, my mother decided – very wisely – that we should be objective, and my sister and I undertook the responsibility of guardianship – the right to decide the fate of an individual if he could not decide for himself. There were conflicts and arguments within the family, but to me it was obvious that everybody has the basic right to enjoy life, not to have to suffer, not to have to live helplessly against his/ her wishes. I spoke with Dad several times, by no means easy conversations, and I told him frankly that I would carry out his wishes. After deliberations and internal conflict, Dad decided not to have his life prolonged if a situation evolved in which he was no longer able to choose.
When the doctors informed us of an additional deterioration – the need for dialysis – we consulted with experts to determine exactly what was involved, and what the prognosis might be. It is important to understand that every case should be judged based on specific, individual conditions – there are surely patients and family members who will proclaim how dialysis sustained their lives for many years, that they enjoyed life, experienced things like the birth of family members which they would not have wanted to miss. All this is correct, but in our case we were told that few months’ survival would come at the price of pain.
Dad was consulted, and after considerations decided – no.
Miraculously this decision permitted him final months of good life – he flourished, enjoyed what he could, and seemed to regain control over his life. The medical team where he was hospitalized told us this often happens with terminally ill patients – the most difficult and essential decision helps them recover the feeling of control.
We were assisted by the Lilach Society – to Live and Die with Dignity – the only place we found which provided us with help in not prolonging life, and this brought us great relief. Fear of continuous pain and helplessness is one of the worst fears, and we were shown that the simple solution was the right one – an individual has autonomy over his/her life, as well as over his/her death.
The proposed law for “Physician Assisted Death” is not only valuable.
For those in need, it means the actual ability to breathe, and is a privilege that must not be taken from them for the sake of any rule or belief. I do not know whether my father would have chosen to take the proffered lethal medication to end his life, but I have no doubt that the possibility to choose how he would live his last few months decreased the mental and physical anguish from which he suffered in his last months.