“The physician who was assisting my partner, Andy, with Medical Aid in Dying, suggested that he consider hiring two doulas from FareWell Doula, to assist us on the day he chose to utilize the end-of-life medications. Andy explained that he wanted to hire them as a parting gift to me, to minimize the stressful and emotional day ahead of us. At first, I must admit that I was opposed to the idea. I countered that I was a trained Hospice volunteer, had witnessed the death of my mother in a hospice facility and my father in his own home under hospice care, and was very familiar with Medical Aid in Dying through books and videos and as a member of the Compassion & Choices organization. Plus, I wanted this to be a very intimate end-of-life event. To placate Andy, I agreed to interview these two doulas—and was immediately put at ease with their friendly, compassionate demeanor and impressed with the customized services they explained in detail they could provide. I was assured that I would be given as much privacy and “alone-time” as I desired.
They responded to Andy’s myriad of questions about the medical-aid-in-dying process by providing honest answers, using non-medical terms we could both understand. In a very unrushed manner, they respectfully asked Andy the sensitive and private questions (e.g., names and contact info of family members, name of the funeral home, burial/cremation preferences, etc.) in order to fill out the necessary paperwork. They even asked Andy his preference for the flavor of the sorbet to be used to consume the last medication. They also asked us to consider what music or slideshow of pictures on his large-screen television, if any, he wanted to play on the day and time he was asked to choose. Without hesitation, I agreed that these doulas should be hired.
On the designated day, they arrived promptly and immediately started to make Andy comfortable. Their presence and aura of calmness immediately reduced my anxiety. I was grateful to see them dressed in colorful outfits and accessorized with jewelry—instead of the black pantsuits I had envisioned. That fact, and their pleasant greeting, indicated to me that this was not going to be a morose occasion—but more of a way to honor the last wishes of a special person and a life well-lived. I was very impressed that one of the doulas had lined the tray of medications with a colorful doily depicting a rainforest (she explained she did this because, during their initial interview, she remembered Andy talking about his travels and seeing the photo of the rainforest he liked so much). What a nice, personal and thoughtful touch, I remember thinking to myself! (I believe the addition of the special little touches the doulas suggested, including music, scented candles, favorite pillow, and blanket, etc., DO make a difference in setting the proper, relaxed atmosphere—for both the client and other individuals present.)
The doulas worked quietly, confidently, and efficiently in tandem throughout the day by spot-checking each other as they carefully measured and mixed the medications and diligently recorded the precise time each medication was ingested, etc. I was so grateful that having the doulas preside during this time relieved me of this responsibility and enabled me to be fully present and supportive of my partner—and not have to be concerned with performing this part of the process.
The doulas were very adept at quelling Andy’s anxiety about the required timing of the medications by assuring him they were keeping track of the time and frequently telling him how many minutes remained before the next step of the process. When he became concerned about the consistency of the sorbet used to consume the final medication, they patiently assured him that it would be exactly the consistency he specified. I told the doulas that I did not want them to leave until Andy expired—which took exactly four hours. I was so glad to have the doulas there to support and comfort me and answer my questions about Andy’s physical condition and signs, e.g., irregular breathing and odd sounds, as his body slowly shut down. I appreciated that on numerous occasions they asked me if I wanted them to step outside to allow me some private time with Andy.
Another thoughtful gesture they offered me was a beautiful selection of note cards and colored pens to write a note to Andy to place in his clasped hands to take with him on his “journey.” They explained that this was totally optional. I had not thought of this and actually found this activity very cathartic and rewarding. Another unexpected benefit of having the doulas present was they helped pass the seemingly endless time by engaging me in conversation and encouraging me to talk about Andy, which I found was a very bitter-sweet experience—which afforded me the opportunity to reminisce about our time together. The doulas were very considerate of my needs, e.g., they asked me if I wanted to use the bathroom, get something to eat, feed my puppy or let her outside. I noted that they refrained from “urging” me what to do, e.g., eat, although it would have been totally appropriate if they knew from our initial interview that I was a diabetic—and therefore critical that I maintain a proper glucose level, especially given the stressful and emotionally charged situation. The doulas were very perceptive and picked up on the fact that I felt comfortable sitting near a dying loved one—and so the three of us continued conversing as they observed Andy’s vital signs, e.g., pulse and oxygen saturation. I am sure they would have been able to modify how we spent our time together according to the reaction(s) of the individual(s) with the client.
In retrospect, although I thought I could “go it alone,” I would have been a nervous wreck and worried that Andy might protest at consuming all of the final medication—leaving me in a serious quandary and wondering how I would have reacted. Having the doulas administer the medical-aid-in-dying medications, while allowing me to participate as appropriate, created a very stress-free, calm, and respectful way to enable my partner to legally and painlessly end his life on his terms, in the comfort of his own home and with me by his side—while fulfilling my desire and promise to support him through this final phase of his life and our relationship.
The doulas provided an invaluable asset to the medical-aid-in-dying process by ensuring that it was flawlessly, reverently, and respectfully carried out. I would definitely recommend that anyone considering Medical Aid in Dying contract the services of a doula or pair of doulas.”
"I see death as an opportunity for change and growth. You see awakenings, forgiveness; you see new bonds made and old wounds healed, which I believe send the dying on their final transition peacefully and bring new opportunities for the people who remain."
Jeri Glatter — Huffington Post
Janie Rakow — USA Today
Jeri Glatter — GatheringUs.com
Janie Rakow — Treehugger.com