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The Decomposition Coffin

By Melissa A. Frost

“I’m writing a paper on the future of the elderly in Australia, Melissa,” said the nurse I was signing S8 drugs out of the DD cupboard with the other night at the local public hospital I work at. Both of us are senior nurses on a medical unit. Average age of patients in this unit would be around 88 years old. Ninety per cent of them are awaiting placement as a result from falls at home, falls at an aged-care facility, delirium at home, urosepsis at home, carer stress at home … the list goes on.

“Paul, it’s quite simple,” I said. “Our generation is going to do the right thing and euthanise ourselves at 75. We are not going to be 92 year-old old patients lying in public hospital beds awaiting some placement, any placement, anywhere, that is available, anywhere in Australia.”

“Paul,” I continued, “we are going to do the right thing and take ourselves off the planet at 75 years old. We are going to euthanise ourselves. Remove ourselves, and not burden the health system and our families.”

The sweet little new graduate Registered Nurse behind us, rummaging through the IV antibiotics section, picked up her vial of Amoxicillin and high tailed it out of that festering, uncomfortable conversation. Turning briefly to look at the two baby boomers in the treatment room discussing a scenario that was:

  1. too uncomfortable for her, and
  2. another example of the insanity of baby boomers in her eyes.

But it’s the truth. What are we going to do about our ageing population?

Our public hospitals are struggling now. We simply do not have enough aged-care facilities to place these 88-year olds. And the aged-care facilities are insufficiently resourced with not enough funding and inadequate nursing/carer ratios. How does a registered nurse look after 195 residents on her/his own? The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union is trying. Its campaign about the ratios in aged-care facilities is in full throttle. Is the union making any headway with the Federal Government? No. Not at this stage.

In the 2018 – 2019 Budget delivered by the Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison, he promised “caring for older Australians.” Morrison stated that the government would increase home care packages by 14,000 over four years at a cost of A$1.6 billion. However, the aged-care sector clouded this news by pointing out more than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for a Home Care package now.

The conversation in the treatment room ended between myself and Paul agreeing that yes indeed, we needed to do the right thing and euthanise ourselves at 75 years old. Remove ourselves from the planet. Preferably in one of those decomposition coffins or to be thrown from an urn across some beach we had loved.

Thoughts?


10 comments

  1. Doug Young

    No political party has any claim to financial competence. Consider that individuals generally need to live within their budget but political parties don’t give a rats. If they spend beyond their budget they merely increase tax or invent a new tax. That constitutes a gross lack of financial competence.

  2. Ken Butler

    With sympathy for the aged and a full awareness of Australia’s incapacity to meet our aging needs,
    what pathetic rot!
    I am 87, twelve years beyond your arbitrary 75.
    Fortunately,I can still run a small solo business (to survive).
    Welcome the new financial year!

  3. David Bruce

    The LNP just borrow fiat currency from the IMF to fund the “wheels of government” which includes the defence, education, health and social security portfolios. Last time I looked our national debt was around $400 billion.

    My mum is 95 and been in a retirement home since 2010. She said to me recently “I don’t want to be the oldest resident in the retirement home”, so what are her options?

  4. Josephus

    I am over 70 and not being demented think of the above daily. I have requested euthanasia and have ‘do not revive’ on my advance care directive. I am investigating a non toxic, green funeral on my own land, as friends are also.
    My opinion is that modern medicine is totally a force for good insofar as it relieves pain and suffering, but that keeping the old alive once they do not function well physically or mentally should be stopped, with consent of themselves or a non beneficiary relative /friend.
    Modern medicine prolonging life without the counterweight of contraception has grossly overpopulated the planet, and for that humanity is doomed; before that most other creatures too. Perhaps some little weasel like critter will later emerge from its burrow , or the remaining fish/sea mammals once more grow legs and walk on the by then desertic land. For all that the Churches share the blame, blasphemously, since interventionist medical aid is to deny the will of god who has sent cancer or dementia to finish me off. It is not harmless to keep everyone alive as long as possible without first ensuring strong incentives and penalties to encourage, perhaps even enforce, birth control. My local paper publishes photos of a grinning great grandma surrounded by her umpteen descendants, that being worthy of accolades it seems. No it is not. It is selfish and stupid.

  5. Keith

    Pretty well every Thursday I go out kayaking with a mate of 90 years of age. He relies on us to get his kayak in the water and help him into it. Once in his kayak, he can manage himself very well. So it is not all 75 year olds who need constant nursing. Almost a fortnight ago we had to rescue one of our group … a young fellow in his 50s. He was in a kayak unsuited to the conditions and was not paying enough attention.

    So age ought not be a determinant, health being the issue. It must be the individual who decides their own fate in my view.

  6. Ricardo29

    With just over two years to go to the arbitrary killing time I give you the taxidermist’s farewell.

  7. Rowan forrest

    I have plans in place and the will to go through with them when the time comes and I am not able to look after myself any more. I have worked in a nursing home, and have a family member who still does. It is horrific and I will never voluntarily go into such a place.
    The lack of funding is terrible and puts limits in place for all sorts of care, from incontinence pads to painkillers, and care when you need it. Pollies really need to spend some time in aged care facilities, and realise that they could end up there. It might be the only way problems will get addressed.

  8. Luke

    The day will come when the government and the religious right to lifers will rush through
    parliament a euthanasia bill. Why? because they will reason that the cost is to great to pay
    to keep our elderly alive. Their religious morals will be thrown right out the window when the
    money talks. I guarantee it.

  9. Joanne

    I was so angry on reading this article that I have taken time before commenting. My main points are as follows.
    1) I am a retired Registered Nurse and cannot believe that another R.N. would refer to the elderly patients under her care as ” a burden to the health system and their families”. What a terrible example she showed to a newly qualified nurse. She should be fighting for better conditions and ensuring that all those she ” mentors” do the same. Also instead of taking time complaining get out in the unit and show a caring attitude , spend some quality time with those patients who are going through a very stressful time in their lives. Then again, maybe not, as her attitude is not the greatest and sadly probably comes across in her dealings with the patients.
    2) The answer is NOT up to the elderly to “euthanise” , it is up to Government, Public, Nurses and Medical staff to pressure for adequate and much better care for the elderly to make their life as meaningful as possible with respect and care for all their needs., It really seems to me that there is so much ‘blame” and ‘pressure” being put on the elderly these days from all areas that they are being made to feel “worthless” and “burdens” rather than needed, respected and cared for, and even from the very people who should know better. Euthanasia should be a choice for those individuals who have exhausted all care options , NOT as a solution to inadequate care, funding, and perceptions of the aged as ” burdens”.

  10. Diana

    Easy to say when you haven’t yet reached 75. I have, and quite enjoy my life at the moment.

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