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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A Morning in the White Light: A Doctor’s Story After His First Euthanasia

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Jesús Medina, a doctor working in Leganés, performed his first euthanasia on November 15, 2021. It is one of 172 carried out in Spain so far, a year after the law allowing it came into force. “Don’t let me down,” the patient, an 86-year-old woman with end-stage colon cancer, told him as she asked to die with dignity. But for now there was nothing he could do: the Autonomous Community of Madrid had not yet formed its Guarantees Committee. When it was formed, the application was denied, but accepted after appealing the decision, almost three months after the patient decided she no longer wanted to take it. When Jesus came home that night, he wrote this text:

I have to prepare myself internally and externally this Thursday morning. I had a restless night and woke up early. In the shower, I noticed my body was shaking.

I pray and share my feelings with my loved ones.

I pray again for a long time when no one is home.

I go outside and I’m still shaking. I’m about not to take the car because I’m afraid I won’t be able to drive. But I’m taking a leap of faith: I know I can drive.

We have arrived at the portal. The sky is so clear blue it’s like wrapping paper around the city.

The three of us are here: the two nurses and I. We take a moment to tell ourselves how nervous we are, but confident that we are performing a medical act, moved by love and respect for individual freedom.

The atmosphere in the house is almost festive (like waiting for the bride to leave the room on her wedding day).

There are children and many grandchildren. The husband is the most fragile member of the family.

She’s gorgeous. Dressed in white pajamas and a floral robe.

Made up, perfumed, with a bouquet that her granddaughters just gave her.

We welcome everyone discreetly but excitedly.

She comforts those who come close to her. She is prepared, strong, composed and seems contradictory full of life.

We explain aloud the steps we are going to take: we prepare the medicines in the room, then the patient comes to place two venous lines, and then family members who wish can come.

Everything in the room is organized, meticulously ordered. Everything is prepared in a solemn but friendly atmosphere. We want everything to be plannable and the process to be smooth.

Kisses, broken wishes, thanks, a few sobs and the last very firm hugs can already be heard in the living room.

She goes into the room and lies down on the bed with complete ease. He speaks to us in a jovial tone of concrete details and transcendent themes.

He thanks me for all my company during these months, he tells me very nice things that I can’t keep. I tell her that we fell in love at first sight, that I will never forget her.

Part of the family enters when the two venous pathways are canalized.

The room is white, his pajamas are white, the propofol is also white, and the morning light comes through the window filtered through white awnings.

The anesthetic kicks in and she doesn’t lose her smile. Her granddaughters tell her everything they love and she says goodbye and wishes us all happiness.

It’s ten thirty and there’s a spirit of peace, dignity, respect for life and the process of dying that I’ve never felt in the air.

Source elpais.com

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