Ready to die yet?

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I have it on good authority that unfortunately, the evidence would appear very strong, that we are all going to die. That’s you, Auntie Annie and even me.

OK, that is something we all consign to sometime in the future, and anyway, I’m not ready to die yet. I jokingly proclaim that if you can’t take it with you, then I’m not going! But that is just a good throw-away joke line. Spike Milligan is reputed to have said that he didn’t worry about dying. He just didn’t want to be there when it happened. It is also said that on his tombstone the inscription goes “I told you I was ill.”

What prompted the subject of this week’s column was the death of an old acquaintance of mine. Lovely bloke who took life seriously and would ask me all sorts of medical questions – but those questions were all related to ‘living’. We never discussed ‘dying’.

He had a fall that resulted in a brain injury that rendered him unconscious – a condition he never recovered from and eventually he died, leaving a grieving wife.

Unfortunately, these scenarios do tend to be common place – we are all going to die, and since, in general, we are older than our wives, we can expect to rock up to the pearly gates first to be fitted up with a suitable harp (probably you should take lessons now, and request a comfy cloud).

Unfortunately, whilst it may be ethereal up there, you may have left bedlam down here. As well as grieving wives and family you may have left a financial mess.

Answer this question: when you die, how does your wife get the money necessary for daily living? Was this something you paid her each month, like a salary? But now you’re not there to pay that salary.

Where does your money come from? A pension or a superannuation that is paid regularly directly into your account? And does your wife/partner have any access to that account?

Even if your “exit fees” are covered by an insurance policy, does she know where that policy is kept? Or even the name of the company?

And where is your money kept, once you’ve popped your clogs, you will find the ATM doesn’t want to know you and will eat your credit card. Banks can get very pernickety about people trying to withdraw money from a deceased person’s account, no matter how long they had lived together.

Then there’s wills. If you die without making a will (intestate) then everyone hops in for a slice of the action, right the way through to the gardener and the soi dog. Sorting that lot out takes months (sometimes years), and money is not dispersed until all claims have been verified. (You can relax a bit here – the soi dog won’t get anything.)

However, before you get to the pearly gates, there is another will you should leave with your solicitor, and that is the one called a “Living Will” (all the others are “dying” wills when you think about it).

The Living Will covers your final moments before arriving before St. Peter, or Lucifer, the bloke downstairs.

There are now other important factors which are the basis of the Living Will:

“If I should be in a terminal condition or in a state of permanent unconsciousness. I wish that the treatment be stopped by signing the terms below.”

“I direct my attending physician to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment that serves only to prolong the process of my dying,

I do not want cardiac resuscitation

I do not want Tracheostomy

I do not want mechanical respiration

I do not want Feeding tube

Other (specify)”

Note that this is not euthanasia. This will is to cover what happens in a terminal condition or in a state of permanent unconsciousness, and allows the terminal patient to quietly slide out with dignity.

The correct forms are available at the Bangkok Hospital Pattaya and you can register your Living Will there with your clinical notes.