I am currently teaching a course on the laws and ethics of aging for the Masters students at the Erickson School. One of my main points in that course is that aging is a collaborative project or, to put it more simply, aging is team sport.The need for collaboration applies to ethical dilemmas as well. As part of their academic work with me, I’ve asked each of the students to write up as concise statement of a moral or ethical challenge he or she has encountered. First up is Nich.
I recently witnessed a very real and painful moral dilemma that I would
like to share. On Friday, April 30th my great-grandmother passed away in
the small farm town of Columbus, Kansas. Throughout her remarkable life
she demonstrated the importance of family and taught us how to love. She
was 88 years old.
My great-grandfather is the same age as my great-grandmother. In 2001 he
was diagnosed with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Less than a month
later my great-grandmother was diagnosed with a rare seizure disorder
that causes dementia. Like virtually all of life’s experiences leading
up to that point – they’d been married for 59 years – they moved into an
assisted living facility together in 2002.
My great-grandfather’s disease spread quickly. Between 2002 and 2008 he
steadily lost the ability to experience the world as he once had,
although his infectious (and enviable) joy for life still remains
strong. However, by the time my great-grandmother died he was only
vaguely aware of her passing, despite being there to hold her hand as
she passed away.
After a vocal debate we decided unanimously as a family that he should
not attend the viewing or the funeral. Should he have gone? Did he have
a “right” to be there?
What are the key issues? How would you answer this question? Have at it!