A peaceful death with support and care

As the House of Lords prepares to debate the Assisted Dying Bill next month, Peter Michael Scott recalls a special day in St Joseph's Hospice, Hackney.

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An experienced hospice chaplain, Peter Michael Scott is parish priest of St Mary, Finchley East.

Geoffrey loved his family, his garden and his home. He made a number of requests about dying. First of all, he wanted to do so in the hospice.

 

Geoffrey had received care at home from the local district nurses and the hospice community team, but he felt the responsibility of caring for him at the end of his life would be too much for his family, so when asked about his preferred place of death, he said the hospice.

 

When he arrived, Geoffrey talked with the team about pain management and how he wanted his death to be peaceful. He was very keen that we knew he was not afraid.  The consultant based at the hospice and the team of doctors and nurses reassured him that his medication would be a joint decision, and they would consistently ask him about dosage and its effectiveness.

 

I got to know Geoffrey after he came to our mid-day Mass. He attended in a wheelchair, listened intently to my short homily, and then afterwards asked if I would visit him on the ward. His room was covered with pictures of flowers and insects drawn by his grandchildren.

 

We talked about his family, his life, his beloved garden, and after a few more visits, he requested to be anointed.

 

Shortly before he died, Geoffrey asked if I would celebrate Mass with his family in his hospice room, which I duly did. We used flowers from his garden to decorate the makeshift altar.

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Geoffrey loved the hospice, he called it his “other house”, and he saw us as fellow guests. When he began to die, his last request was that he could breathe “London air as if I am in my garden”, so we kept his window open.

 

As his breathing became irregular and shallower, a few bumble bees wafted in and out of his room. Geoffrey died surrounded by his family, in a room garlanded with flowers and children’s pictures.

 

Geoffrey’s name has been changed. His family wanted me to write something, because while they miss him. And they want others to know that dying, with support and care, can be peaceful.

 

• From Inside the Hospice by Father Peter Michal Scott, St Paul’s Publishing, £7.95. Available from St Paul’s Bookshops or direct from St Pauls Publishing. Proceeds will be donated to St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney.