Mr. Mario Dumont: “Dying with indignity” [“Mourir dans l’indignité”]

Thanks to Mr. Mario Dumont for his heartfelt appeal.

First, here is his French article published today in the Journal de Montréal:

Second, here is an English translation:

How can we explain the tragedy that strikes our elders? A society must have invested so much effort to offer the possibility of “Dying in dignity” to see so many of its elders experiencing the exact opposite.

A extreme example of a crisis environment is the Herron residence. There, as in several other CHSLDs [long-term care centres], elderly men and women experienced an almost inconceivable end of life. The arrival of COVID-19 having forced a large part of the staff to quarantine, some centres found themselves below the minimum.

How is it that so many of our elders die in unworthiness? First, it must be recognized that our system has failed to protect them. Our public health experts had carefully planned the containment of society and the preparation of the hospital system. But not seniors’ residences. These already fragile environments were quickly struck down by the virus.

Deficient care

In overwhelmed centres, we have seen seniors die in a period when nothing seemed guaranteed. The level of care is falling sharply, to the point of no longer being able to meet needs as basic as thirst and hunger. Yes, to the point of having to postpone the moment of changing the incontinence briefs. We don’t even talk about other normal hygiene care anymore.

Die dirty and die alone. It’s still the saddest of the sad. In this period when visits to seniors’ residences are prohibited, contact with families is also lacking. Some people knew all the news at the last minute: their loved one had COVID-19 and … had a few hours to live. Consequence: some seniors had an end of life that took place in a pathetic solitude.

The whole promise of the Dying in Dignity Commission seems to evaporate in several cases of death caused by the pandemic. The possibility of not dying in suffering and of living the last hours being surrounded by loved ones, all of this slips through our fingers.

To die alone

The government has made an exception for visits to people at the end of their lives. The crisis, which reigns in several establishments, limits the possibilities to a strict minimum. Could we do better? I would be curious to hear from the palliative care specialists.

To make mourning even more difficult for those close to the deceased, the recovery of the bodies and the other stages of the usual funeral process are disrupted. Due to the ban on assemblies, it is not possible to organize a funeral. It is not even legal for the children of a deceased elder to come together in order to cry or comfort one another.

When asked about the death of her father by a colleague from TVA Nouvelles, a disillusioned and resigned woman said: “He will be part of the COVID-19 statistics. “

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