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The Boston Globe

Opinion

JOAN WICKERSHAM

The choice to end a life

When an ailing parent says, “I’m ready; I want to die’’

My mother was cornered. After four years of living with a rare autoimmune disorder that had partially paralyzed and largely blinded her, she was battling a systemic infection. She had been in the hospital for weeks. Antibiotics were causing her heart and lungs to fill with fluid, but stopping the drugs would have allowed the infection to take over. The doctors had nothing more to offer; and the nurses had told us, in a way that was laconic but compassionate, and unmistakable in its meaning, that they didn’t like the way this was going.

My mother was weak, slipping in and out of consciousness. Suddenly she said, very clearly, “I’m ready.” My sister, my husband, and I were in the room; we looked at one another, not sure if we’d understood. And my mother said, without opening her eyes but very firmly, “I want to die.”

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