Who Holds the Keys to Breaking the Cycle of
- A Personal Documentary on the Interruption of a Medical Killing
by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.
Domestic violence victims are not victims; they are participants in abusive relationships. For this reason the term “domestic violence victim power” is not an oxymoron. It is hardcore reality.
I’m learning the lesson watching my 86-year-old mother toward the end of her life. She has lived in an abusive relationship with a 80-year-old man whom she married after my father passed. In fact, she married this man twice, thereby showing her ability to break the cycle once. Unfortunately, once was not enough, at least from where her children stand.
She is a frail woman of 85 pounds, with multiple medical conditions and physical handicaps, most of which emerged during the life of her current relationship. It’s no secret that she is a domestic abuse victim. Even her caretakers are appalled by her victimization and her partner’s abrasive, abusive control.
Medical Killing: Euthanizing the Elderly in Abusive Relationships
Last week, I rushed out to see Mom when notified that she was dying. The phone in her room at the assisted living facility had been disconnected (or removed). So, a staff nurse kindly walked her cell phone in for mother to speak with me. I told Mom, I was coming to see her and in a faint cry, she pleaded, “Hurry…hurry.” As an aside, mother never says, “hurry.”
I headed out immediately and, while in route, I received voicemails to contact one of the private caretakers saying, “Your mom is not doing well and wishes you would come as soon as possible.” When I arrived, Mom was sitting up in her wheelchair looking fresh, frisky and as fine as I had seen her two months prior. What I didn’t know was that I was looking at morphine speaking.
Mother had been removed from all of her life-sustaining medications and placed on morphine for pain management. This medical regimen, called the “Care and Comfort” program, appears to be a protocol that quickens death and is for those who wish to die.
I later learned it is a common practice inspired by an individual acting as power of attorney for an incapacitated elderly patient. The intervention is commonly described as “welding the healthcare system to quicken a medically hastened death”…“medical killing”....“euthanizing elderly.”*
My mother had no idea that she was on such a program and she was clearly not incapacitated. To the contrary, she was articulate and looking to regain her strength after a bout with pneumonia, all while her controlling husband was encouraging her compliance with this medical regimen.
Her husband claimed that the only way she could have any pain medications was to be on the Care and Comfort program. That didn’t sound right to me. So, I asked the nurses if that was true and learned absolutely not.
I proceeded to inform them that my mother didn’t realize that she was currently on the Care and Comfort program. And then, I asked what are the implications of people being on this program. The nurse in charge said that being removed from her life-sustaining medications would trigger a medical crisis from an untreated condition, which would end her life. For example, without her colitis medication, her colitis would bleed out...killing her.
She informed me that this program is for people who wish to die. I told the nurse that my mother did not want to die. She quickly directed me to the head person on staff. When I shared my mother’s expressed preference to heal and live, she said that mother told the social worker that she wanted to end her life. I later learned that these communications between mother and the social worker occurred with her controlling husband in the room.
I asked to speak with the social worker, but she was not around. So, I requested that she (as head staff currently in charge) communicate directly with my mother. Accordingly, she met with Mom privately for an evaluation interview. Subsequently, she decided to take mother off of the Care and Comfort program and immediately re-instate her life-sustaining medications.
When I stepped back into her room, mother shared the news and we cheered the re-instatement of her life-sustaining medications and her physical therapy, both knowing we were also cheering her rescue. We gave each other high five and I could feel the heaviness leave the room, until…
Perpetrator’s Truth Reveals Itself
Within moments of this directive to sustain life, mother’s husband rushes down the facility corridor flagrantly irate. He seeks to lure me aside, but I would not leave the presence of the caretaker standing next to me.
“The nerve of you for interfering!” says mother’s husband. His blood pressure must have peaked as the rage in his body overcame him and those around us. It was stunningly obvious that this man who purported to be “caring” for my mother was outraged that she had been removed from the Care and Comfort program, designed to hasten death.
In that moment, I heard one of the nurses lean over to the caretaker standing next to me and say, “You are a witness.” It was chilling as we all saw mother’s husband’s stifled agenda unfold before our eyes.
He plowed into mother’s room, forcefully saying, “She is getting in between us.” And from here he mentally and psychologically punished her for my being there. I could feel Mom’s polarization over the next couple of weeks.
She became both her husband’s despair and her natural loving self, all in one. But the dichotomy was far too great for her to bear. Pain and sleeping medication eased her distress.
For the entire balance of my stay in Florida, mother’s husband could not be in the same room with me. His anger was overwhelming. Mind you, this is a man who months prior would not let mother and I alone in a room without his “supervision.”
With one change in healthcare “treatment,” he moved from displays of endearment toward me to complete avoidance overcome by his own rage. This happened all in a moment’s time, over his perception that I interfered with the intervention of withholding Mom’s life-sustaining medication. This “interference” resulting in mother being placed back on her life-sustaining medication sunk her husband’s ship...compromised his agenda...and ended our relationship.
Victim’s Power Reveals Itself
For the rest of my visit, I watched my mother’s agony over wanting to please her husband and wanting to continue living. She said, “Please don’t challenge him. If you go against him, you cannot win” And then she pleaded, “Jeanne, Don’t destroy your life fighting for mine.”
She wanted to remain in harmony with her controlling husband and, at the same time, she wanted to live, regain her strength, and eat more lobster and chocolate. Her inner conflict was penetratingly painful for her and for me.
Before my leaving, Mom assured me that she was not part of a plan to end her life. I trust that she would have been honest with me about this had it been otherwise. And if it had, I would have been there to sit in graceful silence supporting her in her passage.
Fortunately, now the hospital/nursing facility clearly hears mother’s inner voice and knows how it clashes with her husband’s desire. Mother executed the healthcare facility’s Designation of Health Care Surrogate (assigning me as surrogate), and I submitted it to leverage my ability to remain in the loop with respect to her healthcare status. Currently, the Director of Nursing is submitting ongoing updates on Mom’s medications and any changes in her healthcare and medical condition.
Mother made a conscious decision to challenge her husband’s control, and therein lays her power. She also chose to remain under his control, and in that choice is power as well. She chose the path of least resistance with respect to being in a controlling relationship. You see—in some situations—abusive relationships can be easier to live in than to leave. And the victim holds that power to stay or to go. Accordingly, domestic abuse victims are not victims; rather they are participants in abusive relationships.
If you are in an abusive relationship, know there is power in your realization that you are a participant in the relationship and you have choices. Whatever choice you make, it is yours and therein you have control.
For ongoing support with healing abusive control, visit http://www.preventabusiverelationships.com/membership.php and claim Free Instant Access to Survivor Success Tips. Psychologist Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps individuals nationwide end and heal from domestic abuse. © Jeanne King, Ph.D. — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention
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Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.