I must admit, I am guilty of being woefully ignorant of current events in Tasmania. This would not be so if there were more hours in the day, but my son is ready for breakfast every morning before 5am and I’ve chosen to make him a priority over my knowledge of the news in southern hemispheric islands. However, one recent headline caught my attention out of Hobart, the capital city. The article was entitled: “Tasmania Bill to make euthanasia legal could lead to ‘Death tourism’.”

It turns out that The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2013 proposes to create a registrar to oversee the process of assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in Tasmania. The article noted that some suspect a new, robust “Death Tourism” industry will follow. The Bill includes penalties for unscrupulous people or entities that pressure patients into euthanasia, which is good.

While this new proposed Bill is stirring up quite a bit of controversy Down Under, many countries have laws addressing the choice of a suffering individual to die. I won’t go into the details here, so type in “Legality of Euthanasia” into your favorite search engine if you’re curious and Wikipedia will elucidate.

Our company, AssistedVacation.com, improves the quality of life of our clients by providing great staff to provide support on vacation. We are a young company and as the president and founder, I am naturally enthusiastic to accommodate potential clients. However, I was a bit taken aback one day a few months ago when Hank got in touch. Hank was calling from Huston, Texas and after a few minutes on the phone, it was clear that Hank wanted to die.

Hank had had a successful career in the oil industry. He had also been a smoker and heavy drinker from a young age. After numerous surgeries to remove various sections of his lungs, rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, the cancer was still spreading throughout his body. Hank was a straight-shooter about what he wanted. He wanted a nurse to travel with him and his wife to Switzerland, manage his pain on the way over, and help them check into a euthanasia clinic near Zurich. Then, our nurse would travel home to Texas with his wife and his remains.

Our company is in business to help our clients improve their quality of life on vacation, not to help them end their life and I told Hank so. Over the phone, he made a strong case for euthanasia, citing his unbearable pain and yearning for dignity. I apologized that I could not help him and wished him comfort.

For the next few days, I had an internal debate over my personal ethics regarding Hanks request. I asked the opinions of my elder brother who has a PhD in Theology.  I also checked with our insurance company and attorney to see if we could even legally provide such a service and in fact, we could. I thought a good bit about Hank and I finally decided to call him back to get some more details about what his vision was for this “Assisted Vacation”.

His wife answered the phone. After exchanging pleasantries, she informed me that Hank had passed away in his sleep the week before. His pain had been absent in the hours before his death.

As we define our company in these early years, Hank will be a lesson to me that quality of life is subjective. In the end, because of the specifics of his situation, we would have taken Hank to Switzerland and we would have supported his wife in any way that she required. And while I’m certain there are others who we would not accommodate on this type of trip for one reason or another, person-centered services first require the provider to listen with an open mind.

My best,

Thomas


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