The Blog of
Nadine Dorries
Life or death
Posted Friday, 25 May 2007 at 13:30

I have no idea how many births and deaths I have been present at.

I suppose it’s around a dozen births. I, along with everyone else, cried unstoppable tears of joy at the moment new eyes blinked in the bright light.

Birth is a moment of hope and happiness regardless of the circumstances.
The mother may be a drug user with no partner, or she may be the wife of a successful company director, it makes little difference.

The joy that is felt at a delivery, at the moment of birth, is as equal and genuine, and as full of joy and hope for the future at one, as it is at the other.

Pain, need, birth, and death are for a short period of time great social equalisers.

I have lost count of the number of deaths at which I have been present. I remember with clarity each one that I regret. The two occasions when patients have begged me to stay and sit with them but I didn’t. I couldn’t, other patients had needs.

Both died alone within a short time of asking me to sit with them. They knew what was about to happen, I didn’t. My judgment was wrong, they were right. How did they know?

I was shocked yesterday when I read about the paramedics who had been sacked for joking at the moment of a man’s death.

Not shocked at their sacking, but shocked at how much professional behaviour in such circumstances has altered. The case of the paramedics invoking ‘dark humour’ at the moment of the patient’s death is not the first case I have heard of.

Hearing is the last sense to leave us when in a coma, under sedation, or dying. If you have ever had a ‘general anaesthetic’ you will remember that you could hear what was going on in the room before you could open your eyes.

I have had the misfortune of having been seriously ill and dangerously close to death. I know well that my ability to articulate was the first thing to go, then I was unable to move a single muscle, then everything went black. For what seemed like ages after that, I could hear the panic around me as I was bundled into an operating theatre.

All I could hear was genuine concern and professional conduct. I knew there was a chance that they may have been my last moments, not least because I knew what was happening to me, and,  because I heard one doctor say “if that F******g theatre isn’t ready by the time we get out of this f*****g lift she is a f*****g goner”.

There are moments when bad language can be excused!

Having experienced nothing other than professionalism, up until the moment I completely lost consciousness, is something I have never thought about until today.

Imagine if at a time when I was close to death all I could hear were the people, who were supposed to be helping me, joking about my potential demise?

If I sit and really think about it, it makes my stomach turn. At such a moment you are completely vulnerable - your life is in the hands of others, you have no more control over what is happening to you than you had at the moment of your birth.

Such unprofessional behaviour is fundamentally unnatural at such a moment.

The Victorians revered death. A visit to Highgate cemetery will clearly illustrate how far down our list of emotional priorities death has slipped. But it hasn’t in other European Catholic countries and also in countries which are less developed than us.

Why do we have less respect for life and death now than we used to?

Is it anything to do with the way we have developed as a society? Is it because of 24/7 media, computers, 24/7 shopping, Sky TV, computer games, and, the busy, busy, way we now live our lives?

Has the computer replaced the Mantilla?

Was the way the paramedics invoked black humour at the point of the man’s death a symptom of how respect for the individual is now no longer an aspect of medical training, or is it still?

I remember the deaths at which I personally failed. However, I don’t remember in detail the deaths at which I sat and held someone’s hand and stroked their arm, whispered comforting words, and, a shy prayer. I don’t remember because they were often and I was doing my job.

The two patients who died alone, who knew better than me, they knew what was about to happen. I asked ‘how did they know?’

I think that because they knew, and we didn’t, demonstrates that there is something present at both birth and death about and within which man has no control.

Something greater and superior to us that when present within the delivery room inspires a sixteen year old girl of no abode, a complicated history of abuse, and drug use, to cry tears of hope and joy and aspiration; and for every grown up in the room to cry with her.

And when present at death, when all the emotional aspiration which arrives with birth has been spent in a lifetime, deserves at the very least, a respectful thanks from someone who may be fortunate enough just to be there.

Death becomes her

Anonymous said:
Responded: Friday, 25 May 2007
This is the first time an MP has made me cry from emotion, rather than from anger.....
peddlar said:
Responded: Friday, 25 May 2007
God Nadine. I need a drink and a fag now. I have an idea for you during your summer holidays,why don't you write yourself a book.
Carl Cross said:
Responded: Friday, 25 May 2007
All so true Nadine. I was so, so fortunate that when my father died four years ago of pancreatic cancer, the nursing care was exceptional. We had been told he might have four months to live but in fact he died two weeks after diagnosis. On the last day of his life, I was with him all day. Clearly I didn't know then it was to be his last day. But before I left at 10.30pm, the sister said that she would check again his vital signs in case of any obvious deterioration and suggested that I might like to 'say my goodbyes just in case' before I left. She also said it was important I should go, as lack of sleep would achieve nothing and I had to rest. I did say my goodbyes and I'm glad I did. I'd barely reached home when I was called back and by the time I arrived he had died. I was distraught but the sister had been there, holding his hand until the end, reassuring me of his peaceful passing. And another nurse had remade his bed around him, fluffed up his pillows and arranged a little posy of flowers by his head. It completely overwhelmed me when I entered the room and to this day I am so grateful to them. The idea of anything other than this ultra-professional and yet demonstrably caring approach at such a vulnerable time truly fills me with horror.
Man in a Shed said:
Responded: Friday, 25 May 2007
When my late grandmother was a young girl in hospital with pneumonia she heard the doctor at the end of her bed say to another person - don't bother with this one, she won't be here in the morning.
Mike H said:
Responded: Friday, 25 May 2007
Blimey, Nadine, that's powerful stuff. It's the sort of writing that, having been read, demands a few moments quiet contemplation from the reader. I'm not sure that I know how to start to comment on a piece like that, let alone do the job adequately. Initially I wrote a comment that looked at the reasons why this sort of thing might happen, (human fallibility, occasional bad judgements, etc), especially among people who are routinely dealing with life and death situations. I then went on to try to argue why the case of the two men concerned should be looked at sympathetically. But then, before posting my comment, I re-read your blog and saw what Carl had written. I found myself having to throw away my original comment and reconsider my opinions. You're right - their behaviour was completely unforgivable, even if it might have been argued that it was a one-off abberation.
Anonymous said:
Responded: Friday, 25 May 2007
Is that our dose of emotion to keep us going over the weekend?
Jane said:
Responded: Friday, 25 May 2007
I will never forget the kindness the nurses at the Lister hospital. They were with my mother at her death whilst I sped along the A1. When I got into the room, the nurse who should have gone off duty was sat with her, still holding her hand, waiting for me to arrive. What happend to the paramedics was right, if only to teach others a lesson.
Angela ( Cornwall) said:
Responded: Friday, 25 May 2007
You may remember you assisted me with certain aspects of the hospital treatment given to my father during his final days. Mine was obviously not a unique experience as both the Healthcare Commission and the Government launched initiatives to improve the care and dignity of the vulnerable whilst in hospital. One point the Commission's expert stated was that the dying should be afforded no special treatment. I fundementally disagree with this.A lifetime should not be finalized with being treated no better than an inconviennence.I wonder how many people are unfortunate to die completely alone? A lifetime of family and friends and yet no one there at the point when just one was most needed. I just hope that when my time comes it's quick!
Dave said:
Responded: Friday, 25 May 2007
Perhaps society has become so immune from the sanctity of death that it is not surprising that such events happen.We are bombarded with daily doses of tragic events, 100 killed in Iraq bomb blast,200,000 deaths in Darfur, 50 million killed in WW2, until each figure becomes meaningless. How many popular TV programmes are based on murder? Too many! And yet one single event involving one life draws outrage.I have feared death throughout my life. Personal tragic events have always ensured that this taboo subject always returns to haunt me.I guess it's the not knowing that bothers me the most.I wonder if your life threatening event was the catalyst that determined your road to success in life Nadine?
Matty said:
Responded: Saturday, 26 May 2007
How many politicians would even comsider such a subject worthwhile of comment? You are very definitley in the wrong job. You are too kind and full of love for your fellow human beings to get on in politics. Don't wate your time any longer Nadine, do what you where chosen to do , help others.
Not Anon said:
Responded: Saturday, 26 May 2007
On the contrary, Matty, this good lady is in the perfect place to help her fellow man.Whilst I agree with your sentiments about kindness and love, politics is in desperate need of a makeover ( or even a rebuild?)and we need more people who are honest, forthright and caring to enter into its world, not less. Nadine may reflect back on her sec. mod upbringing, after some thirty odd years, with some distain but she certainly turned out to be a wonderful human being.Clearly, a woman who not only follows her head and heart but also her instinct, and usually if you believe something is morally right it will eventually happen. I don't even have to sign this as the good lady will instinctively know its author.
Alan Douglas said:
Responded: Saturday, 26 May 2007
Factually, the WORDS do not stop being recorded in the mind even AFTER your conscious mind "goes under" - and anything said while you are under can have huge effect on your later life. Check out Dianetics - I have personal experience rather like yours, incl the aftermath of words spoken while I was well "under". Operating theatres really should be silent. Alan Douglas
Steve said:
Responded: Saturday, 26 May 2007
We are all now immune to what life means. We fill our lives to the point where there is no room left to think or care about others anymore, not even ourselves. I see bankers leaving the game at 45. Burnt out, taking anti depressants, alcohol, drugs, their lives wasted around them. No partners, no children, always been too busy. I keep telling myself I have time, it wont happen to me. Your article has made me think. I don't want to finish up alone and dying alone. I have to face those changes I keep avoiding.
Anonymous said:
Responded: Saturday, 26 May 2007
It is hard trying to type into this comment box. Can't you change it?
Anonymous said:
Responded: Saturday, 26 May 2007
It is hard trying to type into this comment box. Can't you change it?
david kendrick said:
Responded: Saturday, 26 May 2007
There are some people who think having professional politicians is a good idea. Halfwits.
Mike H said:
Responded: Saturday, 26 May 2007
Anonymous - I agree with your remark about the size of the comment box. I've asked the same thing myself in the past. A workround is to write your comment using Notepad or something similar and then copy and paste it into the box when you've finished. Sorry about the off-topic comment, Nadine!
Alan said:
Responded: Saturday, 26 May 2007
As a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have twice recently experienced people dying alone in hospital, one was in an induced coma, the other with absolutely no dignity,mainly because that the nurses were stretched to breaking point, within 2 hours of his passing there was another person in his bed. I'm not afraid of dying, but I do have a fear of dying alone and worst of all dying alone in hospital. I have been fortunate in the fact that I am in respite care which should allay my greatest fears. Thank God for the hospice movement
Nadine said:
Responded: Saturday, 26 May 2007
Alan, Thanks for commenting on what must be a difficult issue for you. If you are in Keech House let me know and I will pop in and say hello. Don’t be afraid, I am sure whoever brings us into this life, takes us home. Nadine
Anonymous said:
Responded: Sunday, 27 May 2007
The hospice movement is where all nurses should go to do a spell of training, doctors as well. The respect and care the dying receive is second to none. A hospice makes death and loss bearable for those who are departing, and their loved ones.
Anonymous said:
Responded: Sunday, 27 May 2007
I lost my mum and said hello to my new grandaughter within five days. Both emotionaly charged events, both at which I was present. I felt honoured to be with my mum at the end. I stroked her hand and looked at her wedding ring, she had been a widow for twenty years. I wondered every minute if dad was watching, and knew he would be proud of me if he was.
Anonymous said:
Responded: Sunday, 27 May 2007
You write beautifully. It’s easy to forget you are reading something written your MP. You didn't do as well in the BoS as the new Labour toady this week. Reckon you have got him on his toes Nadine.
Alison , Ampthill said:
Responded: Sunday, 27 May 2007
Wow, a real tear jerker. Makes you think. No comment at this stage
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